A salute to Pine
We announce with sadness and gratitude that Signpost publication and newsroom manager Pine will be stepping back to focus on other Wikipedia and Wikimedia-related endeavors. Especially during our recent editorial transition, it was Pine who facilitated stability, particularly in the publication process.
Pine's willingness to help shepherd the newspaper through its time of transition was a strong contributing factor to our agreement to come on as co-editors-in chief. His conscientious commitment to the newspaper over the past several years as manifested through technical skills in publishing the newspaper, organizational skills in managing the newsroom, and writing skills in crafting some of our best coverage is laudable, and we hope you will join us in thanking him for that.
Readers will recall the breathtaking gallery he compiled around Valentine's Day, and his leadership in creating and managing the survey of readers we conducted in February ... these examples are just from the past month. His reputation of excellence in Wikipedia journalism precedes him, and we wish him all the best as he pursues other interests on Wikipedia.
– Go Phightins! and GamalielReader comments
One of the fundraising banners displayed on Wikipedia.
The publication of the Wikimedia survey findings on fundraising questions
, compiled by Lake Research Partners (see last week's special report
in the Signpost
), came three months after significant concerns were voiced on the Wikimedia mailing list
and on meta:Talk:Fundraising_principles
about the design and wording of the December 2014 fundraising banners and e-mails. The fundraising team promised
to post feedback analysis on March 1. To the extent that this survey may be viewed as a response to community concerns, does it address them?
Let us revisit the debate that took place three months ago. I will focus here on concerns expressed about the banner and e-mail wordings, rather than complaints about the size and design of the banners.
Slide 16 of the survey findings document displays a sample fundraising banner. For reference, it reads as follows:
DEAR WIKIPEDIA READERS, We'll get right to it: This week we ask our readers to help us. To protect our independence, we'll never run ads. We survive on donations averaging about $15. Only a tiny portion of our readers give. If everyone reading this right now gave $3, our fundraiser would be done within an hour. That's right, the price of a cup of coffee is all we need. We're a small non-profit with costs of a top website: servers, staff and programs. Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park where we can all go to learn. If Wikipedia is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online and ad-free. Thank you.
This is one of several, all very similar wordings that were used. For a longer example, see the image above right.
A number of longstanding community members felt that the messages on the fundraising banners were misleading, given the Wikimedia Foundation's unprecedented wealth. Below are excerpts from posts made by community members on the public Wikimedia-l mailing list. Emphases are mine.
Wittylama wrote on November 27, 2014:
||I am however negatively-struck by the finishing statement, a return to the old motto of "keep us online without advertising for one more year". I thought that we had collectively agreed that banners that directly threaten advertising next year were not going to happen any more. Remember when we used to get lots of mainstream media reports saying "Wikipedia will soon have ads!" as a result of those campaigns in the past? (This is different from simply saying "we don't have ads and we're proud of it", etc.)
Wikimedia developer Ori Livneh wrote on November 30, 2014:
||I agree that the urgency and alarm of the copy is not commensurate with my (admittedly limited) understanding of our financial situation. Could we run a survey that places the banner copy alongside a concise statement of the Foundation's financials, and which asks the respondent to indicate whether they regard the copy as misleading.
Quantitative assessments of fundraising strategy ought to consider impact on all assets, tangible or not. This includes the Foundation's goodwill and reputation, which are (by common wisdom) easy to squander and hard to repair. It is critical that we be maximally deliberate on this matter.
In addition to the survey suggested above, I want to also propose that we:
(a) solicit input from a neutral reputation management consultancy, and
(b) create a forum for staffers to talk openly about this matter, without fear of reprisal.
Ryan Lane, the creator of Wikimedia Labs, wrote on December 2, 2014:
||Today I had a coworker private message me, worried that Wikipedia was in financial trouble. He asked me if the worst happened, would the content still be available so that it could be resurrected? I assured him that Wikimedia is healthy, has reserves, and successfully reaches the budget every year. Basically I said there wasn't much to worry about, because there isn't.
The messaging being used is actively scaring people. This isn't the first person that's asked me about this. When they find out there's not a real problem, their reaction quickly changes. They become angry. They feel manipulated.
Administrator Martijn Hoekstra wrote on December 3, 2014:
||I'm alarmed about the content. That should come to no surprise to the fundraising team, because I can't imagine this content hasn't been written to evoke the maximum amount of alarm. But it crosses the line towards dishonesty.
Former Arbitration Committee member John Vandenberg wrote on December 4, 2014, in response to Lila Tretikov:
||Lila, the concern is not that the fundraiser is working, which your soundbite confirms, but that it is deceiving people, or at least manipulating them 'too much' to be consistent with our values.
One way to test that would be to organise a survey for donors, informing them of the current financials, the current strategy document and current status on achieving that strategy, a breakdown on where the money is currently going and ask them whether they are happy with the amount and tone of the information they were given before being asked to donote. [sic] WMF donors may already being [sic] surveyed like this (ideally done by academics in the discipline rather than WMF staff/contractors); if so, hopefully that data can be shared.
MZMcBride wrote on December 18, 2014:
||The fundraising rules also need to make explicit that lying is flatly unacceptable. Having the first rule be "don't lie" might be the easiest solution here, though it's shocking that this needs to be written down. The fundraising teams, past and present, regularly lie to our readers in an effort to extract donations. Specific examples of lying include [...] repeatedly making manipulative and misleading suggestions that continued donations keep the projects online.
The Wikimedia Foundation recently raised $20 million. Assuming a generous $3 million to keep the projects online per year, that's over six years that the projects could continue operating before needing to ask for money again. Contrast with e-mails and in-site donation advertising that suggest that the lights will go off soon if readers don't donate today.
David Gerard, another former Arbitrator, replied to MZMcBride minutes later:
||And we're not talking about semantic arguments, we're seeing blatant falsehoods.
Does the survey address or invalidate these concerns?
Some of the main findings of the survey are:
- Ignorance and misconceptions about the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikipedia are common. For example, slide 3 states that "Although a majority of Wikipedia users correctly identify the organization that supports it as a non-profit, many are misinformed or uncertain."
- The most common reason for donating is, "I use Wikipedia often and want to support it", refined after additional questions to "I use Wikipedia and would like to see it remain a source of information" (slides 9–10).
- Most users find the fundraising messages "convincing" (slide 23).
In aggregate, these findings—that people are generally not well informed about even the most basic organisational aspects of Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation, that they would like Wikipedia to remain available to them, and that they find a banner message calling for donations so that Wikipedia can stay "online and ad-free for another year" convincing—are not particularly surprising. This is precisely what the criticism on the mailing list was based on.
Most importantly, I found no evidence in the Lake Research Partners document that what John Vandenberg and Ori Livneh asked for in the posts quoted above—i.e. that survey respondents be given detailed information about current financials, strategies and cost breakdowns, and then asked to re-assess the fundraising messages—was done as part of this survey.
Receiving such information is certainly capable of drastically changing some donors' minds, as illustrated by the following comments posted on Twitter:
||@Wikipedia can you explain this please. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/foundation/e/e3/FINAL_13_14From_KPMG.pdf#page=4
#keepitfree #charity #donations #scam #BalanceSheets #wantthetruth #wtf
i can assure you, @Wikipedia WILL NOT see another penny from me. I know plenty of charities that r much more in need
I am astonished about their deceiving and unethical be[haviours] in regards to their #keepitfree #donation campaign
That the survey findings remain silent on this topic is unfortunate.
The Wikimedia Foundation's revenue has increased every year of its existence, and by about 1,000% over the past six years or so. (See Wikimedia Foundation#Finances.) In addition, the Foundation has tended to overachieve its revenue targets and underspend in recent years, leading to substantial increases in its reserve.
Wikimedia Foundation financial development 2003–2014. Green is revenue, red is expenditure, and black is assets, in millions of dollars.
The December 2014 fundraiser apparently was the most successful ever. According to WMF fundraising data, more than $30 million was raised from December 2 through December 31—over $10 million more than the fundraising target mentioned in the January 2015 Wikimedia Foundation blog post, "Thank you for keeping knowledge free and accessible". The combined total for November and December 2014 was close to $40 million, around two-thirds of the planned total for the 2014/2015 financial year.
The automated thank-you e-mail for donors reportedly read (my emphasis),
||My name is Lila Tretikov, and I’m the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. Over the past year, gifts like yours powered our efforts to expand the encyclopedia in 287 languages and to make it more accessible all over the world. [...] Our mission is lofty and presents great challenges. Most people who use Wikipedia are surprised to hear it is run by a non-profit organization and funded by your donations. Each year, just enough people donate to keep the sum of all human knowledge available for everyone. Thank you for making this mission possible.
On behalf of nearly half a billion people who read Wikipedia, thousands of volunteer editors, and staff at the Foundation, I thank you for keeping Wikipedia online and ad-free this year.
Is it true that each year, "just enough" people donate to keep the sum of all human knowledge online and available for everyone? No. Looking at the figures, each year just enough people have donated for the Wikimedia Foundation to have been able to
According to the Wikimedia Foundation's most recent financial statement, less than 5 cents of each revenue dollar (a little over $2.5 million) went to Internet hosting.
The single biggest expense item was Wikimedia Foundation salaries and wages (nearly $20 million). Most of that goes to the software engineering department, whose work in recent years has often been controversial in the community; witness recent debates about VisualEditor, the Media Viewer, Superprotect and mobile user profiles.
Times have changed
From a historical perspective, it's interesting to contrast the current state of affairs with what Jimmy Wales told a TED audience in 2005 (time code 4:35, emphasis mine):
||So, we're doing around 1.4 billion page views monthly. So, it's really gotten to be a huge thing. And everything is managed by the volunteers and the total monthly cost for our bandwidth is about 5,000 dollars, and that's essentially our main cost. We could actually do without the employee ... We actually hired Brion because he was working part-time for two years and full-time at Wikipedia so we actually hired him so he could get a life and go to the movies sometimes.
A fundraising message focused on keeping Wikipedia "online and ad-free" was entirely appropriate at a time when that was indeed the project's main cost. But those times are long past.
The influx of hundreds of millions of dollars—a reflection of the goodwill Wikipedia's volunteer-created content generates around the world—is bringing about a major structural change in the Wikimedia movement, creating hundreds of paid jobs at the Wikimedia Foundation and in Wikimedia chapters around the world, in particular to move software engineering tasks from volunteers to paid staff (with mixed results to date). It's where the lion's share of donors' money is going.
The survey leaves me with little confidence that readers and donors are aware of these facts, and it tells us nothing about how they would feel if they learnt them.
If the uppermost value involved in Wikimedia fundraising is to generate as much money as possible, then the findings of this survey can be used to argue that there is no problem. According to the survey results, people don't mind the fundraising banners all that much; they find them compelling—and donate money as a result. The most recent campaign was outstandingly successful in financial terms. This is what fundraising campaigns are for, right?
Critics like those quoted above might counter that the Wikimedia movement's aspirations are about providing full and accurate information to the public, and that transparency and honesty should take precedence over self-interest.
In a little over eight months' time, there will be another December fundraiser. I look forward to seeing which of these arguments will prevail, and whether the 2015 banners will once more ask people to donate tens of millions of dollars in order to keep Wikipedia "online and ad-free".
Andreas Kolbe has been a Wikipedia contributor since 2006 and is a longstanding contributor to the
Signpost's "In the media" section. The views expressed in this editorial are his alone and do not reflect any official opinions of this publication. Responses and critical commentary are invited in the comments section.Reader comments
SUL finalization imminent; executive office shake-ups at the Foundation
Single-user login nears finalization
Logging in to Wikipedia was originally implemented uniquely with separate accounts and passwords for each individual project. As a result, the person behind a certain username on one project was not necessarily the same person who had registered the username in another. This technical complication, though unimportant at the time, has proved troublesome as the project has grown past the initial handful of small wikis to today's global Wikimedia community. The first proposal for what came to be known as single-user login was drafted in June 2005, and technical maestro Brion Vibber presented the first working plans for its implementation at Wikimania 2006 (Signpost coverage). However, work on the project was placed on hold to avoid technical complications in the 2006 Foundation board election, and so the requisite extension, Extension:CentralAuth, was not ready for testing until early 2008. After testing by administrators, single-user login (SUL) was finally made publicly available on an opt-in basis to all users in May 2008.
This system worked and solved the issues at the time, but was far from perfect: username conflicts that could not be resolved on a first-claimant basis persisted. In 2009, the default SUL configuration was changed so that newly registered usernames detected to be conflict-free were automatically globally unified after creation. However, this change left accounts already created untouched (your author, for instance, registered in late 2008, and remembers having to unify his account manually). In 2012, this issue re-emerged in a discussion on the meta-wiki (Signpost coverage) as something that needed to be improved on, but technical feasibility emerged as a thorny issue in the ensuing discussions. Nonetheless, as the project matrix has continued to grow, the need to unify accounts for cross-wiki compatibility in the various toolsets under development has become more urgent. Since early 2013, when an SUL audit was conducted, the Foundation and members of the community have been working hard on what should be the final step in SUL development—SUL centralization (referred to in the 2013 SUL audit as the "Grand Unification").
This process is now entering its long-awaited final phase with the upcoming SUL finalization, scheduled for April 15, less than a month away. Finalization has been in the works for a long time—the first proposed deadline was May 2013, but after highly controversial setbacks in the July 2013 VisualEditor rollout (Signpost coverage), product manager James Forrester moved to the VisualEditor project full-time. In January 2014, Dan Garry was brought in and given the job as part of his portfolio, but in the time it took Garry to acclimatize to the job, his focus was moved to the mobile project; though much of the necessary engineering work was done that summer the requisite resources for finalization elusive. The current initiative, headed since October 2014 by Community Liaison Keegan Peterzell, has been underway since then, and is on the cusp of completion.
The current plan is as follows: editors with conflicting accounts will be measured in terms of precedence, and the lower-precedence editors will have their accounts renamed and globally unified to another, unique, username. An announcement, which will be placed on the talkpages of the renamed users, has been drafted and a localized special page, Special:UsersWhoWillBeRenamed, has been created to assist in the process. In the event of a clash between an existing global account and an existing local account with the same name, the global account will be unified and the clashing local account will be locally renamed by appending text identifying the local wiki, for instance,
Oldusername~enwiki. In the event of a clash between multiple local accounts where no global account exists, a software script will globalize the highest-precedence account chosen from the list. The precise terms of the precedence measurement algorithm are still in draft form, but will take editing "age", edit count, and, in some high-level cases, user rights, into account. R
The WMF's "C-Suite" shake-up
Incoming COO Terence Gilbey's staff photo.
Wikimedia Foundation chief talent and culture officer Gayle Karen Young announced her departure from the Foundation this week. The CTCO is the executive staff member at the Wikimedia Foundation responsible for maintaining best "people-practices", overseeing activities including recruitment, on-board training, organizational management, skills development, and performance assessment. Young was hired for the position in December 2011, replacing outgoing first-time CTCO Cyn Skyberg in a position first advertised as "chief human resources officer", and since expanded in scope. Young was hired after an extensive search involving hundreds of candidates and six finalists, and including, as is customary for some Foundation hirings, the completion of a strategy project under the purview of the Foundation before final hiring. In her notification to the community on the foundation-l mailing list then-executive director Sue Gardner stated that Young is "a seasoned HR consultant and organizational psychologist with expertise in leadership development, change management, facilitation, group dynamics, and Agile team effectiveness training. ... she's an iconoclastic geek who goes to Comic Con, but unlike most geeks she is warm and people-centred: when she was a kid, she wanted to grow up to be Deanna Troi from Star Trek."
In a staff biography published on the Foundation blog in 2013 Young elicited that the social implications of access-to-knowledge disparity are what drove her interest in and work at the Foundation, stating that "Knowledge is a prerequisite for social change ... access to knowledge has to be a foundation of that. When you look at places in the world where conditions are not there for people to thrive, it usually has to do and starts with a lack of access to information and ideas by a given group or party." As the post—and Young's March 18 farewell message, which prominently features "dancing with Wikipedians on the beach in Hong Kong, singing 'I Will Revise' off-key at the top of my lungs"—indicate, Young was most surprised and excited by the passion that the members of the Wikimedia movement demonstrated, stating that "intellectual rigor and generosity are fundamentally based on the best parts of us as human beings."
Young will be replaced in that role by interim chief operating officer Terry Gilbey. Executive director Lila Tretikov introduced Gilbey to the wikimedia-l mailing list by stating that "Terry Gilbey will be joining us as interim Chief Operating Officer, responsible for building rigor and discipline around our operational processes. Terry’s role will help WMF stabilize our core operations so we will be ready and able to adapt and innovate in our changing environment." According to the Foundation's job description for the title as it was applied in the past, Gilbey will be in charge of "overall administration and business operations of the Wikimedia Foundation." However this new executive position has been dormant for some time, and so the hiring represents a change in strategic focus within the Foundation, with Tretikov stating that "one of our top
priorities for the WMF in 2015 is improving organizational effectiveness ... this means we need to strengthen WMF's ability to set and deliver on commitments, improve organizational discipline around decision making, and mature internal processes and systems." Chief financial officer Garfield Byrd will now report to and work with Gilbey within the WMF's organizational hierarchy, and so as both new COO and interim CTCO Gibley will be responsible for oversight of both the Finance and HR teams. More details on the precise nature of Gilbey's position and on what the hiring means for the Foundation's organizational upper management will come in the metrics and activities monthly meeting in April. Tretikov briefly described his background as "an early adopter of Tor ... [who] believes strongly in the right to privacy and the free and open access to knowledge as an equalizer." R
This week in history
From the Signpost 21 March 2005 issue, "Wikipedia reaches milestone with half-million English articles":
Wikipedia added its 500,000th article in English last Thursday, with Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union being designated as the milestone article.
In the half-million pool to guess when Wikipedia would cross this threshold, the winner was Llywrch. Nobody managed to pick the correct date, however; Llywrch was the closest, coming within one day by guessing March 18. The pool was held last June, and another pool for the millionth article was set to close once the half-million mark was reached.
Sj started a press release to send to media outlets publicizing this event. Some even got in on the news without any prodding. In anticipation of the milestone, The Inquirer published an article Thursday entitled "Wikipedia nears half million article mark", coming barely a few hours before it was actually reached (The Inquirer also happened to be the first media organization to break the news of Wikipedia's one-millionth article overall last September).
A number of people were busy watching events as Wikipedia's article count approached this milestone, but it was still difficult to pin down the actual 500,000th article. In the end, technical limitations and some miscommunication made it impossible to be completely certain of its identity. [...] Although realistically a number of candidates might be considered tied for the honor, commenting on the designation of Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union, Alterego said, "I like the sound of that so we can move on."
Moving on certainly could describe the transformation of Involuntary settlements in the Soviet Union, which grew considerably after being designated as the 500,000th article. As started by Mikkalai, the article had a couple of paragraphs and a few placeholder sections, along with two links to Wikisource documents. Mikkalai commented, "I didn't expect to get myself in the limelight", and warned not to expect a fully-developed article anytime soon."
However, the article attracted a number of editors and by Sunday had already received nearly 100 edits. As a result, one of the sections in particular, dealing with "Exile settlements", had been significantly expanded. The article also had at least one reference to support the content. Meanwhile, an active discussion had already begun on the talk page over what the sources said about particular ethnic groups.
The Signpost has written about numerous project milestones in our decade-long history covering the Wikimedia movement—just this week we are covering the 25th million upload on Commons—and this one, covered just two months into the Signpost's existence, was our very first. The community went on to celebrate its millionth article just one year later, in March 2006, at the cusp of the highest growth rate in the project's history. R
This image of the Mevlid-i Halil Mosque in Şanlıurfa
was the 25 millionth image uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.
- 25 million photos on Commons: According to Commons user Multichill, this week saw the uploading of the 25 millionth image on Wikimedia Commons, a photograph of the main courtyard of the Mevlid-i Halil Mosque in Şanlıurfa, Turkey. For a visual history of the number of files on Commons, see this graph of the total number of uploads over time. In January 2012, as the Signpost reported, the Commons upload total hit 12 million uploads, meaning that in the ensuing three years, the Commons project has more than doubled in size. R, G
- From ticks to clicks: Wikimedia UK has announced that it is working alongside the Open Coalition, a loose association of open space organizations, and Demos, a UK think tank, on developing a newly announced project called "From ticks to clicks – understanding and building digital democracy". The proposal is a submission to the Knight News Challenge, organized by the journalism non-profit John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, seeking to "produce the research, outreach, collaborations and advocacies that are needed to aid politicians, academics, community organisers, civil society and Web innovators in making British democracy fit for the digital age." If successful, the Wikimedia UK hopes to introduce a three-step digital democracy plan with hopes to develop a long-term training and capacity-building program in collaboration with the UK government. Wikimedians are encouraged to leave feedback on the entry's page in the challenge. R
- IAmA: Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Lila Tretikov, and the American Civil Liberties Union's legal director Jameel Jaffer participated in a Reddit "ask me anything" on 20 March starting at 16:00 UTC. This comes on the heels of the Foundation's announcement of participation in the ACLU's lawsuit against the NSA last week; see last week's special report for more detail. E, R
NYPD editing articles regarding allegations of police brutality and misconduct
NYPD editing articles regarding allegations of police brutality and misconduct
Replacing last week's announcement of the Wikimedia Foundation's lawsuit against the National Security Agency (see Signpost coverage) as the ubiquitous Wikipedia news story is a report from Capital New York about Wikipedia editing from the New York City Police Department (NYPD). On March 13, Kelly Weill of Capital New York revealed that numerous Wikipedia edits originated from 1 Police Plaza, the headquarters of the NYPD. In an interview, Weill said that she and a friend used a Python script (now also available on GitHub) to search the 15 to 16 thousand IP addresses assigned to the NYPD, identifying 85 different IP addresses which have been used to make edits to Wikipedia articles. A 27-page document in Google Docs lists all Wikipedia edits from those addresses as of January 11.
Many of the edits were innocuous edits to pop culture articles, including pages for The Nanny, ice cream soda, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Who Moved My Cheese?. Some of the edits were vandalism, such as this example of homophobic vandalism. Vice highlighted (March 14) some vandalism that inserted the name of a police officer in articles for Sailor Moon and Four Loko, attacked Susan Sarandon, and added a claim about the Fourth Circle in the Divine Comedy: "Brooklyn South Narcotics of the NYPD is an offshoot of this circle of Hell."
By far, most of the attention has focused on a number of NYPD edits to articles about incidents of alleged police brutality and controversial police practices.
- On December 3, 2014, an NYPD IP address made a series of edits to the article Death of Eric Garner. Capital New York noted these edits occurred only hours after a grand jury decision not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for Garner's death. The edits appear to minimize the conduct of the officers while highlighting Garner's alleged menace. The IP editor changed "Garner raised both his arms in the air" to "Garner flailed his arms about as he spoke", "push Garner's face into the sidewalk" to "push Garner's head down into the sidewalk", and "Use of the chokehold has been prohibited" to "Use of the chokehold is legal, but has been prohibited." The editor also added the sentence "Garner, who was considerably larger than any of the officers, continued to struggle with them" and replaced the word "chokehold", once with the phrase "chokehold or headlock" and once with "respiratory distress".
- In the Sean Bell shooting incident, Bell and two others were shot a total of fifty times by NYPD officers. An NYPD IP address altered the introduction of the article to read that they were "shot at a total of fifty times" (emphasis added). A different NYPD IP address participated in a deletion discussion for the article, writing "He was in the news for about two months, and now no one except Al Sharpton cares anymore. The police shoot people every day, and times with a lot more than 50 bullets."
- At the article Shooting of Amadou Diallo, an NYPD IP address altered details about a previous incident regarding one of the officers who shot Diallo, Kenneth Boss. A sentence reading "Boss had been previously involved in an incident where an unarmed man was shot, but remained working as a police officer" was changed to "an armed man was shot" (emphasis added) and the phrase "but remained working as a police officer" was removed.
- At the article Alexian Lien beating, an NYPD IP address removed several paragraphs of inappropriate commentary about Lien and the incident soon after it was inserted by non-NYPD IP editors.
- At the article New York City Police Department, an NYPD IP address removed several paragraphs about covert surveillance, psychological operations, and political demonstrations. Two years later, a different NYPD address removed two large sections. One section was called "Allegations of police misconduct and the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB)"; the other section, called "Other incidents", discussed numerous instances of alleged police misconduct from 1962 to 2007. Most of that material appears to not have been restored to the current version of the article.
- An NYPD address made a series of edits adding justifications for the controversial police practice at the article Stop-and-frisk in New York City.
Response in the media has been largely negative. The New York Daily News quoted (March 13) Andrew Lih (Fuzheado), associate professor of journalism at American University, as saying “Somebody interested in a fair treatment of history would look at these entries and feel uncomfortable with the NYPD editing this version of history." In Gizmodo, Kate Knibbs wrote (March 13) that the NYPD "has made edits that are clearly in its best interest, attempts to whitewash the bloodiest moments in contemporary NYPD screw-ups by literally re-writing history and recasting critical moments of police violence as irrelevant blips." In The New Republic, Jamil Smith wrote (March 14) "The cops knew where they had to go to control the message." Perhaps The Verge was the bluntest; its headline read "The NYPD may be editing the Wikipedia pages of people it killed" (March 13).
Later that day, Weill reported on the creation of a Twitter bot called NYPDedits, which posts tweets linking to Wikipedia edits from NYPD IP addresses in real time. (Last summer, a spate of these Twitter bots monitoring Wikipedia edits from world governmental bodies were created; see previous Signpost coverage.) The news story seems to have inhibited Wikipedia editing at the NYPD. As of this writing, NYPDedits has only tweeted links to two March 17 edits: a spoiler for a recent episode of The Walking Dead and a punctuation change to A Theory of Justice. Twitter was also the forum for many to express their outrage at the news story. Author N. K. Jemisin tweeted "they're even still lying about Amadou Diallo. SIXTEEN YEARS LATER NYPD still can't bear for anyone to know the truth."
Capital New York's story prompted an internal investigation. NYPD Deputy Commissioner Stephen Davis told Capital (March 15) that the investigation focused on the fact that the editing occurred using workplace resources and ignored the content of the edits. He said:
||If this had been done at someone’s home computer, there wouldn’t be an issue. The only issue here is that you’re not supposed to use a department computer for personal purposes, whether that’s shopping, whether that’s browsing, whether that’s going onto a website or whatever, you shouldn't be doing that.
Davis also said that the NYPD only keeps logs of computer activity for a year, leaving them unable to investigate most of the edits, which go back a decade. In her interview, Weill said:
||Part of their job is digital investigations ... to make the contrary argument that we can't track our own activity past a certain point I think is a little shaky ... I think really any large enforcing body should know what's been going on in their servers for over a year.
On March 16, DNAinfo reported a statement by Police Commissioner William Bratton at a press conference:
||Two officers, who have been identified, were using department equipment to access Wikipedia and make entries. I don't anticipate any punishment, quite frankly."
The New York Daily News reports (March 17) that at least one party was not happy with the NYPD's response. Brooklyn lawyer Leo Glickman said that Bratton's "dismissive attitude" prompted him to file a complaint about the Wikipedia editing to New York City's Conflicts of Interest Board.
Capital New York's original story noted Wikipedia's conflict of interest guideline. Juliet Barbara, senior manager of communications at the Wikimedia Foundation, told The Washington Post that "edits by the NYPD about something the pertains to their work would generally be considered a conflict of interest by the Wikipedia community" (March 16).
In related news, U-T San Diego reported (March 17) on similar editing to the article San Diego Police Department by SDPD employees, including one who removed a lengthy section titled "Misconduct". G
Architect addresses plagiarism accusations
Alejandro Zaera-Polo, Dean of the Princeton University School of Architecture, abruptly resigned last October after only two years holding the post. The resignation occurred amidst rumors that it was due to allegations of plagiarism in his contribution to the 2014 Venice Biennale. Zaera-Polo contributed text for the facade section of the exhibition Elements of Architecture and its accompanying catalogue.
Five months later, architecture news websites are reporting that Zaera-Polo has issued "A clarifying statement" via his website in order to address the "grotesque rumors", which he calls "demonstrably false". Zaera-Polo wrote that his resignation was "requested" by Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber after "my acknowledgement that I had removed all citations from my contribution" to the catalogue. They were removed because the work, intended for a general audience, was "polemical" rather than academic. Zaera-Polo conceded that "While compiling the information for the text and writing it into a narrative, I did incur inadvertently in a few instances of paraphrasis, which would have required citation if they were to meet strict academic standards."
Accompanying the statement was a list of sixteen "instances of alleged plagiarism", including twelve passages which bear similarities to text from Wikipedia articles. Also included were messages sent to Eisgruber in defense of Zaera-Polo by Rem Koolhaas, Pritzker Prize-winning architect and curator of Elements of Architecture, and James Westcott, editor-in-chief of the catalogue. Koolhaas wrote:
||The point from the beginning was to make a publication accessible to any reader. The catalogue is intended as a polemic, not an academic document. Zaera Polo also explicitly announced this at the beginning of his contribution. As such, Princeton’s expectation of citations for Alejandro’s text – which was conceived, with us, as a polemical tale full of speculation – seems a category error.
In response, Princeton issued a statement which said "He was asked to step down in large measure because of statements he made in writing that indicated he was unfamiliar with the university’s policies on plagiarism and that he may have directed his collaborators to breach the rules of the university." G
Wrestling writer objects to Wikipedia claim
On March 6, trainer and retired wrestler Bill DeMott resigned from the WWE following allegations of serious misconduct. At WrestleZone, Vince Russo, former head creative director at the WWE and WCW, recalled "The Bill DeMott That I Knew" (March 12). Russo wrote about his admiration of DeMott and his work ethic and objected to a sentence in the Wikipedia article on The Misfits In Action, a WCW stable of wrestlers which included DeMott under the name "Hugh G. Rection". The sentence, from the lede of the article, reads "They were originally formed in 2000 from a group of wrestlers that Vince Russo considered too lazy to get over." Over is a term referring to a wrestler successfully reaching fans in a desired persona, like a hero beloved by the audience or a villain hated by them.
Russo vehemently denied this supposition:
||Are you !@#$%^ kidding me, or what? I’m in charge of creative at WCW my first three months there, and I’m going to waste my time to come up with a concept for a group of wrestlers that are considered by me to be TOO LAZY TO GET OVER? Then I’m going to put those said wrestlers on LIVE TV with my freakin’ a** on the line? Do you understand just how asinine that statement is?
The sentence in question appears in the very first version of the Wikipedia article, created as a stub by an IP editor in June 2005. An editor significantly expanded the article and added its first references in November 2009. That editor cited the sentence to a short profile of The Misfits on the website Online World of Wrestling. The citation remains in the article as of this writing, though the URL has changed. That claim does appear on the OWW website, and, according to the Internet Archive, appeared there as early as June 2007. OWW was founded as the website Obsessed with Wrestling in 2001, but no older versions of their page on The Misfits are preserved in the Archive, so it is unclear whether the claim originated with OWW or whether they copied it from Wikipedia. G
Wikipedia and true believers
The media continues to discuss last month's Medium profile of Giraffedata and his long-running quest to rid Wikipedia of the phrase "comprised of". On NPR's Fresh Air, linguist Geoff Nunberg is the latest dissenter (March 12), arguing that "The English language usually knows what it's doing, even if it doesn't always seem as tidy as we'd like it to be." Nunberg identifies the Wikipedia editor as an example of a problem with the structure of the encyclopedia:
||It's striking that Giraffedata has been able to bring this off in the collaborative environment of Wikipedia. After all, what one Wikipedian can delete, another Wikipedian can restore. That's what's supposed to keep the whole enterprise from going off the rails. But even the editors who disagree with him about "comprised of" are evidently resigned to letting him have his way. Nobody's about to be as zealous about hanging on to the phrase as Giraffedata is about getting rid of it. And after all, it's not as if eliminating it does any real harm.
But it does show how the Wikipedia system sometimes puts it at the mercy of the dogged true believers. Not when it comes to the serious stuff — 9/11 truthers and anti-vaccinationists don't get very far. But you can pretty much have the run of the place if you dedicate yourself to some crotchet that nobody cares about remotely as much as you do. And for those purposes, the obscure quirks of English grammar are ideal. G
- The Jerusalem Post notes (March 20) that Benjamin Netanyahu topped page views among Israeli election candidates on Wikipedia, with 450,340 page views in the English and 53,630 in the Hebrew Wikipedia. However, the Zionist Union had the most viewed page among Israeli parties. A.K.
- An article in the Smithsonian says (March 19) a recent study of editing patterns shows that Wikipedia contributors are largely motivated by local rather than global interests. The study singled out the Middle East as one region playing a key role in the global spread of information, characterizing it as a "melting pot of ideas". A.K.
- Gawker recounts (March 19) "How One Man Made Himself Into an Aboriginal God With Wikipedia", citing a Wikipediocracy blog post on the Jar'Edo Wens hoax (see report in last week's Signpost). A.K.
- The Epoch Times reports (March 19) on what it calls Wikipedia's "crisis of identity", transitioning from a mostly volunteer-run organization to a more professionalized, cash-rich environment. The article, which quotes Pete Forsyth, also reviews the controversies surrounding the VisualEditor and Media Viewer. A.K.
- Newsweek interviews (March 18) Maia Weinstock, author and deputy editor of MIT News, about numerous subjects, including her organization of editathons to address the gender gap. G
- Equestria Daily, a blog for "bronies" (fans of the cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic), posts a photo (March 17) of Jimmy Wales wearing a brony t-shirt. This isn't actually news, but it was too ridiculous not to include. G
- KQED's Forum hosted a panel discussion about "Wikipedia's Gender and Race Gaps" (March 13) which included Siko Bouterse from the Wikipedia Foundation. G
- ReadWrite reports (March 12) that Sirius, a new open source intelligent personal assistant developed at the University of Michigan, uses a static version of Wikipedia as a database. G
A woman who loved kings, a king who loved angels, a god who loved women, a butterfly that loves sunshine, and a bloke on a bike (and other mythical creatures)
This Signpost "Featured content" report covers material promoted from c. 28 February through a mysterious date circa a week later.
Four featured articles were promoted this week.
- Gary Cooper (nominated by Bede735) Gary Cooper was born Frank James Cooper in 1901. He began his career in silent films as a stunt rider, before paying for a screen test to become an actor. He had become disgusted with the cruelty shown to the horses used in the Westerns he appeared in. Casting director Nan Collins, who became his agent, suggested that he change his name to "Gary" after her hometown of Gary, Indiana. There were other Frank Coopers also pursuing acting careers, not to mention careers in marmalade. He "liked the name immediately." Gradually, Cooper began to land roles with more screen time. He was noticed by Samuel Goldwyn Productions, who signed him in June 1926 for $50 a week (probably equivalent to $3,000 now). His first sound film, The Virginian, made him a Hollywood star. His most famous film is 1952's High Noon, with Grace Kelly. Playing the part of a sheriff menaced by outlaws and abandoned by the townsfolk he serves, Cooper's performance was aided by his stomach ulcers, the pain from which gave him an air of "self-doubt".
- Cosmic Stories and Stirring Science Stories (nominated by Mike Christie) These two science fiction magazines were edited by Donald A. Wollheim and published by Albing Publications, a father-and-son team operating from a desk in the corner of someone else's office. Wollheim had noticed a magazine called Stirring Detective and Western Stories published by Albing, and had written to them inquiring whether they'd be interested in adding science fiction to their list. The two magazines alternated monthly, with Stirring Science Stories appearing first in February 1941. Wolheim got his friends in the Futurians to donate stories (his contract meant he also wasn't getting paid until the third issue was published). Writers included Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, C.M. Kornbluth, and James Blish. Albing published six issues, and a seventh was published by Manhattan Fiction Publications, but wartime restrictions on paper caused the magazines to fold.
- Les Holden (nominated by Ian Rose) "Lucky Les" was an Australian fighter pilot in the Great War, and afterwards a commercial aviator. He was also known as the "homing pigeon"; both sobriquets refer to two instances in three days where he returned from strafing German trenches with his aeroplane a "flying wreck". Holden went on to become an "ace", with five confirmed kills. After the war, he returned to Australia and joined the civilian reserve of the Royal Australian Air Force, before purchasing a Giant Moth to fly on charter operations out of Sydney. Holden's Air Transport Services established air freight services in Papua New Guinea. Holden was killed in 1932 when a plane in which he was a passenger crashed at Byron Bay.
- Benjamin Tillman (nominated by Wehwalt) Benjamin Tillman was a one-eyed white supremacist and politician who was Democratic Governor of South Carolina from 1890 to 1894 and a U.S. senator from 1895 to his death in 1918. He became known as "Pitchfork Ben" for his advocacy of the interests of (white) farmers, as well as for his threat to impale President Grover Cleveland on said farm implement. Once governor, he determined to force African Americans from political life altogether, denying that Thomas Jefferson's "all men are created equal" was true even when Jefferson wrote it. His oratory used the techniques of accusation and insinuation, even as a senator. Tillman's views on white supremacy were so extreme that he held "that blacks must submit to either domination or extermination." He was against extermination, on the grounds that many white men might lose their lives achieving it.
Four featured lists were promoted this week.
- List of South Africa cricketers who have taken five wickets on Test debut (nominated by Vensatry) A list of those cricketers who, playing for South Africa in a Test match for the first time, have taken five or more wickets in a single innings. The difficulty of this can be seen in the fact that only 144 cricketers of any national team have achieved such a feat, of which 22 have been South African. The list starts with Albert Rose-Innes in 1889, and the latest is Kyle Abbot in 2013.
- List of works by Georgette Heyer (nominated by Ruby2010) Georgette Heyer was an English author who published her first novel, The Black Moth, as a nineteen-year-old in 1921. It was set in the Georgian period, and featured Lord Jack Carstares, who became a highwayman after he took the blame when his younger brother cheated at cards. The novel displayed themes that would run through her novels: romance, history, and no end of the doings of the nobility. The male lead is usually described as "saturnine" or gloomy. Heyer went on to establish the Regency romance, which entailed thorough historical research on the nine years of the Regency era. In her heyday, she wrote one romance and one thriller a year. Heyer's last novel was My Lord John, unfinished at her death in 1974, and published posthumously. It's a story of John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford and his brothers; Heyer was fascinated by the period in which the House of Lancaster held sway, and regarded John as a "great man".
- Kangana Ranaut, roles and awards (nominated by Krimuk90) Kangana Ranaut, an Indian actress, has appeared in 29 Bollywood films. She has played a wide range of roles, such as a village girl in the Tamil film Dhaam Dhoom, a supermodel with a penchant for abusing substances in Fashion, and a form-changing mutant in Krrish 3. The latter film, released in 2013, is one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films (that's gross as in money, not gross as in... oh never mind).
- Kareena Kapoor Khan filmography (nominated by BOLLYWOOD DREAMZ, Frank Boy, and Krimuk90) Kareena Kapoor Khan is an Indian actress who has appeared in more than 50 Bollywood films since her debut in Refugee (2000). Like Kangana, Kareena has played a multitude of roles, of which our favourite is Riana Braganza, "a hairdresser who accidentally marries an uptight architect", in the film Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu.
- Nymphs, Fortune and Mythology
Allegory of Fortune by naughty Salvator Rosa. Gemstones, coins, pearls, roses and grapes flow from Fortuna's cornucopia onto the donkey, the symbol of the Pope himself... Rosa was almost arrested for this artwork as it was seen as a satirical attack on the Pope.
The cute La Nymphe surprise, the painter Édouard Manet's lover and wife, painted with his own hands. Manet had special feelings for this painting, and it remained in the artist’s possession his entire life. They married in 1863, two years after this was painted.
35 featured pictures were promoted this week.
swishing... swish... oops no Scott any more (but our photograph just caught him.)
- Centaurea jacea (created by Uoaei1, nominated by Crisco 1492) Known in English as brown knapweed, this perennial often hybridises with black knapweed, whose flowers can be purple, yellow, or white, but can be distinguished by the flower heads which look like they've got rays.
- La Nymphe surprise (created by Édouard Manet, nominated by National Names 2000) La Nymphe surprise is a portrait by Édouard Manet of his piano teacher and lover, the pianist Suzanne, with whom he had a secret love affair. This love affair developed while the young Manet was still living in his parents' house. The girl was three years older than the 17-year-old Manet and their relationship was kept secret from his family for a long time. Manet and Suzanne married after ten years in 1863, two years after the completion of this painting in 1861. The relationship lasted throughout their lives. At the wedding, Manet surprised his betrothed pianist by performing the piece "Chopsticks" on the church organ.
- Four Times of the Day: Morning, Midday, Evening, and Night (created by Joseph Vernet , nominated by The Herald) French painter Joseph Vernet painted the four oils entitled Four Times of the Day in 1757. The series was intended to show Morning, Mid-day, Evening and Night, depicted here as charming seascapes. At this time, Vernet was in the middle of a project commissioned by Louis XV to depict the seaports of France, of which he managed thirteen before the project was abandoned. This project can be seen as part of the grand description of France under Louis XV and the Cassini family of astronomers and cartographers, resulting in the first geometrical map of the kingdom.
- The Little Street (created by Johannes Vermeer, nominated by SchroCat) This marvellous 1658 streetscape by Johannes Vermeer shows the warm brick of Delft under a cloudy Dutch sky. The quietness and placidity of the scene is remarkable, considering that four years earlier, a quarter of the town was destroyed by the explosion of the Dutch army's gunpowder magazine.
- Scott Thwaites (created by KTC, nominated by KTC) Scott Thwaites is a British racing cyclist. In this photograph, he is competing in the 2014 Tour of Britain. Thwaites is gradually ascending in the world of cycling. However, in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, he was pushed back into third place by Jack Bauer, who put on a sprint after he was passed by a hijacked bus.
- Trinidad and Tobago currency from 1905: One dollar and Two dollars (created by Thomas de la Rue for Trinidad and Tobago, nominated by Godot13 ) These Trinidad and Tobago dollar notes were the first notes issued by the Trinidad and Tobago government; previous notes were issued by banks. The dollar was used as an accounting currency, with the British currency of pounds, shillings, and pence being the circulating currency. The exchange rate was held at 4 dollars and 80 cents to the pound.
- Van Gogh self-portrait from 1899 (created by Vincent van Gogh, nominated by SchroCat) Vincent van Gogh produced about 40 self-portraits over a period of ten years; this is one of the last two he painted. According to Van Gogh, his facial expression had become much calmer, but his eyes "have the same insecure look as before". It's in the Musée d'Orsay, who say of it that the undulations of his hair and beard are "echoed and amplified in the hallucinatory arabesques of the background." The later cat paintings of Louis Wain develop this theme of hallucinatory arabesques to the nth degree.
- Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor (created by Carolus-Duran, nominated by Crisco 1492) The Mrs. Astor was a prominent American socialite in the late 1800s. This portrait, by the French artist Carolus-Duran, hung in the Astors' brownstone townhouse on 5th Avenue; she would greet guests while standing in front of it. The ball gown may have been designed by Jacques Doucet – two gowns made by him for Mrs. Astor are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There's some debate as to the colour of the dress in this painting, as the yellow cast makes it difficult to discern what the original hue was. Remind you of something?
- Jay Gould (created by Uncredited photographer , restored and nominated by Adam Cuerden) Jay Gould was rated the eighth worst American CEO of all time by Condé Nast Portfolio for his unscrupulous behaviour.
- The Yellow House (created by Vincent van Gogh , nominated by National Names 2000) The Yellow House is a painting executed by Vincent van Gogh in September 1888. It shows the right wing of the frontmost building; Van Gogh rented four rooms, a kitchen and an atelier on the ground floor, and a bedroom (his) and guest room (Gauguin's) on the first – the guest room is the one with both shutters open. Van Gogh ate in the restaurant painted pink on the extreme left of the painting. Like any self-respecting utility company, the local gas works have dug the road up to lay pipes. Van Gogh was thus able to have gas lighting in his atelier. Originally titled La Maison et son entourage, Van Gogh later called it La Rue, ostensibly "paying homage to a suite of sketches showing streets in Paris, by Jean-François Raffaëlli, and recently published in Le Figaro." The Yellow House was hit by a bomb in 1944, leaving only the right side standing.
- The Quai Saint-Michel and Notre-Dame (created by Maximilien Luce, nominated by SchroCat) Maximilien Luce was a French artist and anarchist activist who began his artistic career engraving prints on wood for newspapers and journals. When the woodcuts began to be replaced by zinc plates, Luce moved to full-time painting. He was introduced to the Divisionist technique of Georges Seurat, and began painting in a Pointillist style, of which this painting is an example. It was painted by Luce when he was moving from his Neo-Impressionist period to his later Populist period.
- Jane Digby (created by William Charles Ross, nominated by Alborzagros ) This miniature by the artist William Charles Ross portrays the fascinating Jane Digby. She was the daughter of an admiral, whose fortune was made when he seized a Spanish treasure ship in 1799. She married a baron, and then went on to have affairs with two kings, a prince, a colonel, a count, another baron, and a general before marrying Sheikh Mijwal al-Musrab, twenty years her junior, and spending the last 28 years of her life with him in a goat-hair tent in the Syrian desert and in her palatial villa in Damascus. Their marriage was a happy one. Some say this kind of thing never works out. Reality says otherwise.
- Charles Catton (created by Charles Catton, nominated by Alborzagros ) Charles Catton, the most notable of the 35 Catton children, was a coach-painter and artist. In fact Catton was an outstanding coach-painter, so outstanding that he became coach-painter to King George III. Catton was also one of the founding members of the Royal Academy, exhibiting landscapes, with the occasional portrait and animaliery.
- Boys Bathing on the River Wensum, Norwich (created by John Crome, nominated by Alborzagros) An oil painting by John Crome, an English artist of the Romantic era sometimes known as "Old Crome" to distinguish him from his son, John Berney Crome, sometimes known as "Who?" Old Crome is known for being, along with John Constable, one of the first British artists to draw trees whose species can be identified. There are four species of tree in this painting... err... err... (moves quickly on). The River Wensum, depicted here, is fed by chalk streams, and is perfectly suitable for bathing boys of all ages (just throw 'em in), although these days somewhat polluted by agricultural runoff. (Them boys gonna come out moo-tants! Moo-tants I tell yer!)
- Francis Bourgeois (created by Francis Bourgeois, nominated by Alborzagros) Frankie Bourgeois, artist and art dealer, painted by William Beechey, whose finest painting, George III and the Prince of Wales Reviewing Troops, got him a knighthood. Too large to remove from its frame, the troop review painting was destroyed in the 1992 Windsor Castle fire. But Frankie's legacy is more substantial – the Dulwich Picture Gallery, in which he is buried. The roof of the mausoleum was the inspiration for the roof of Giles Gilbert Scott's K2 telephone box.
- Lady Dorothy Browne, née Mileham; Sir Thomas Browne (created by Joan Carlile, nominated by Alborzagros) Two heads in harmony, painted by Joan Carlile, an English portrait painter of the 17th century and one of the "first women to practise painting professionally". Thomas Browne was a polymath who "exuded tolerance and goodwill towards humanity". He believed in angels and witchcraft, and his testimony at a 1662 witch trial led to the execution of two women. Browne also wrote Urn Burial, described by a wine connoisseur as "the longest piece, perhaps, of absolutely sublime rhetoric to be found in the prose literature of the world". Well, that's your holiday reading sorted out – two weeks on a beach with a book on cremation practices.
- Profile Portrait of a Young Lady (created by Antonio del Pollaiolo, nominated by Brandmeister) Yes, it's a Profile Portrait of a Young Lady, attributed to four different artists, of which the lead contender is Antonio del Pollaiolo. Painted with oil on poplar wood in 1465, the painting features an unidentified lady in an exquisite brocade dress, whose posture suggests she is sitting in the marble embrasure of a window or balcony. Good job she's not nude – Leonardo described Pollaiolo's nudes as "looking like a sack of nuts... or bundle of radishes".
- Self-portrait in a Straw Hat (created by Le Brun, nominated by SchroCat) A self-portrait by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, shown here in a delightful hat. (Some say phony hat, so she is not posted to avoid conficts) Le Brun was an outstanding artist and official portraitist to Marie Antoinette.
- Jupiter and Io (created by Correggio, nominated by Hafspajen) Jupiter and Io is a painting by Corregio, depicting the moment of sensuality as Io pulls the smoky paw of Jupiter towards her. Jupiter, often tempted by other women, used to disguise himself so that Juno, his wife, wouldn't notice his extra-marital activities. Somehow, the women he seduced never took exception to being pawed by a swan, an eagle, a bull, or, in this case, a dirty black cloud. The scene depicted is inspired by Ovid's classic Metamorphoses. The painting typifies the unabashed eroticism, radiance, and cool, pearly colors associated with Correggio's best work.
- Saint Basil's Cathedral (created by Petar Milošević, nominated by Crisco 1492) Saved by a future Udarnik's bravery from demolition in the 1930s, Saint Basil's Cathedral was built on the orders of Ivan the Terrible in the shape of a bonfire. A full-size model made of wooden lath was first built on the site, then covered in brick, on stone foundations. The builders, "fascinated by the flexibility of the new technology [of brick]", used it as a decorative medium both inside and out, and left the brickwork visible. Even the masonry was covered over with stucco and painted to resemble brick. The cathedral was named after a funny saint, the crazy-wise mystic St Basil, who used to walk around naked, break in to wealthy people's shops, and steal food to give it the poor: kinda socialism in practice – others were talking about it, he was doing it. He was also quarreling with Ivan the Terrible for being bloody cruel (spoiler: Basil was right). The tsar would probably have killed any other man criticizing him, but he left Basil alone, because he was seen as an extremely holy man.
- Wilton Diptych left panel and Wilton Diptych, right panel (created by anonymous, nominated by SchroCat) The Wilton Diptych was Richard II's portable altarpiece, painted using very expensive lapis lazuli and gold leaf, and showing him kneeling in devotion before the Christ child. The painting is in tempera, the ground paint being mixed with egg yolk and laid in thin glazes. The iconography is packed with meaning personal to the king; he is accompanied by his three patron saints (two Anglo-Saxon kings and John the Baptist), both Richard and the eleven angels wear his livery badge of a white hart, and the Christ child is reaching towards a pennant of the Cross of St George, on top of which is mounted a small globe with a tiny map of England – "this scepter'd isle" over which Richard held his royal prerogative. Richard had a private retinue of military men for protection – the eleven angels wearing their livery badges are the heavenly equivalent of his bodyguard. Why there are eleven is not known – the number held negative connotations for the medieval mind.
- Allegory of Fortune (created by Salvator Rosa, nominated by Sagaciousphil) Allegory of Fortune, by the Italian painter Salvator Rosa, is "a satirical attack on Pope Alexander VII's patronage", with "its implication that too often foolish artists received rewards that did not match their talent". The Goddess of Fortune is upending her cornucopia of gifts upon a donkey wearing a cardinal's red and gold cloak – the animal is the Pope himself in four-legged form. Rosa's meaning was only too apparent, and he was forced to issue a Manifesto denying that the animals were churchmen, nobles, or despots. Nevertheless, this painting almost resulted in Rosa being jailed and excommunicated; only the intervention of the pope's brother, Don Marco Chigi, saved him from this humiliation.
- Queen Elizabeth II Great Court (created by Diliff, nominated by Diliff) The Queen Elizabeth II Great Court is the largest covered square in Europe. The space was originally filled with books – the round structure in the middle is the British Museum Reading Room, which has been preserved by building a new wall around it (the room was previously surrounded by bookshelves). It is, of course, the place where Karl Marx used to come to read and write – "then one day he didn't come and we never heard of him again" said the Chief Librarian.
- Hygin-Auguste Cavé (created by Ingres , nominated by Crisco 1492) Hygin-Auguste Cavé, journalist, attorney, civil servant, playwright, librettist, Director of Palaces and Factories, Royal Commissioner for the Comédie-Française, Master of Requests, anthologist, and general secretary in the Ministry of the Interior, was French. "He is perhaps best known as the subject of a portrait by Ingres". And here it is.
- Taractrocera ceramas (created by Jeevan Jose, nominated by Crisco 1492) Taractrocera ceramas, known as the Tamil Grass Dart, is a butterfly found in the southern parts of India and northern Burma. It can be found on the grassy verges of roads cut through the jungle-clad slopes of the Western Ghats, and "is very fond of the sunshine", according to the unreferenced article.
- Mont Sainte-Victoire and the Viaduct of the Arc River Valley (created by Paul Cézanne , nominated by Étienne Dolet) Leaning Viaduct and Trees, by the French artist Paul Cézanne, shows the Montagne Sainte-Victoire.
- Madonna and Child (created by Masaccio , nominated by SchroCat) Madonna and Child, by Masaccio, shows the Christ Child as "an exceedingly babyish baby". The painting is reckoned to be a step away from International Gothic, as the faces are more realistic and modelling has been used to create pictorial space.
- The Fall of Man (created by Hugo van der Goes, nominated by Brandmeister) Hugo van der Goes was a Flemish painter who painted The Fall of Man in the period 1470–1475, shortly before he entered a monastery. His most famous work is the Portinari Altarpiece. Here, he shows the moment where Eve picks two apples from the Tree of Knowledge. Adam is about to hold his hand out to receive one, and the human-newt hybrid watches intently as Eve reaches upward to pluck the second apple.
- [[:|Terry Plank]] (created by John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation , nominated by Alborzagros) Terry Plank is an American geochemist and volcanologist. She grew up in a house built in a quarry, and spent her childhood collecting rocks. She won a MacArthur Fellowship, commonly referred to as a "genius grant", in 2012. Hint: you can help improve articles like this one at WikiProject Women scientists.
- Mount Etna eruption (created by Boris Behncke, nominated by Étienne Dolet) Over eight minutes of hot lava footage, a montage of Mount Etna having a paroxysm, filmed from various points on the flanks on the night of 16–17 November 2013 and accompanied by a running commentary from awe-struck French tourists. Thanks, French tourists!
One featured topic was promoted this week.
- Vidya Balan (nominated by User:Krimuk90) Vidya Balan, an Indian actress, has appeared in a number of Bollywood films, for which she has received several awards. Through her depictions of such characters as Krishna Verma, the wife of a gang lord, in Ishqiya, and Sabrina Lall, the sister of Jessica Lal, she has been "acknowledged in the media for pioneering a change in the concept of a Hindi film heroine."
Featured blank section
Featured picture of Jane Digby
, Lady Ellenborough, Mrs Mijwal al-Musrab – who is busy ignoring this ridiculous attempt to get a fifth set of pictures – a quintriptych? – onto the page.
[This section intentionally left blank]
- Claude-Joseph Vernet, ''The Four Times of the Day''
The four times of day: Morning
The four times of day: Midday
The four times of day: Evening
The four times of day: Night
It's not cricket
If not for Kanye West's dubious repeat at #1 due to people's glee at seeing "loser.com" redirect to his Wikipedia page, the 2015 Cricket World Cup (#2) would have made the top spot, albeit in a generally slow news week. And news was slow enough that a barrage of light news coverage of Pi Day even brought Pi to #9. The most notable death of the week was popular British author Terry Pratchett at #3.
For the full top 25 list, see WP:TOP25. See this section for an explanation of any exclusions.
For the week of March 8 to 14, 2015, the ten most popular articles on Wikipedia, as determined from the report of the most viewed pages, were:
||A big drop from 4.2 million views last week, and though views were on a downward trend the entire week, he still got enough to stay on top of the chart for a second week. Kanye West is, it is fair to say, a polarising figure. His most persistent recent gaffe has been his ill-judged tirade against Beck, winner of this year's Grammy for album of the year, which has apparently earned him the undying enmity of Beck fans. This enmity has manifested itself in many ways, and the web address "loser.com", which just happens to share a name with Beck's best known single, was recently redirected to his Wikipedia page. This redirect has led, naturally, to a spike in views to said page. Loser.com still redirects to his Wikipedia article as of now.
||2015 Cricket World Cup
||Up from #16 and 465K views last week, as the group stage reached its conclusion. Eight teams have now advanced to the knockout stage. In Pool A, the four advancing teams were New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh, while England, Afghanistan, and Scotland were eliminated. From Pool B, India, South Africa, Pakistan, and West Indies advanced, leaving Ireland, Zimbabwe, and United Arab Emirates behind.
||The second most-read living British author after J.K. Rowling, Pratchett died on March 12 at age 66 from Alzheimer's disease. He was best known for his Discworld series of 40 volumes. His daughter Rhianna Pratchett announced his death with a series of tweets, starting with "AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER," using block capitals as a reference to how the character of Death speaks in Pratchett's works.
||International Women's Day
||This celebration falls on March 8 each year, and Google celebrated it once again with a Google Doodle. The UN theme for International Women's Day 2015 is "Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!". Governments and activists around the world commemorated the 20th anniversary year of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, an historic roadmap that sets the agenda for realizing women's rights.
||The former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, black hole theorist and latter-day science icon makes his 19th straight appearance in the Top 25 this week. So, considering this longstanding run by Hawking, you might ask where other outstanding physicists fall on our charts. Well, Albert Einstein was #118 on the raw WP:5000 this week (218K views), and Marie Curie was #1139 (63,449 views). Max Planck doesn't even make the top 5000, and neither does Erwin Schrödinger, though the internet being what it is, his cat is #3197 (35,626 views).
||Daylight saving time
||Not unlike clockwork (or just like clockwork?) this article last seen on the Top 25 in November 2014 returns. Views peaked on March 9, when the United States, Canada, and a few smaller nations made their time switch.
||The popular American professional wrestler is engaged in a "feud" with Alexander Rusev, who holds the current WWE United States Championship. The two will next spar at WrestleMania 31 (#20) on March 29.
||Deaths in 2015
||The viewing figures for this article have been remarkably constant; fluctuating week to week between 450 and 550,000, apparently heedless of who actually died. Deaths this week included Sam Simon, co-creator of The Simpsons (#26) (March 8); actor Windell Middlebrooks (#24) (March 9); Pulitzer-winning reporter Claude Sitton (March 10); American businesswoman Dell Williams, known for founding the first feminist sex-toy business in the United States in 1974 (March 11); Oleksandr Peklushenko, former governor of Zaporizhia Oblast (2011-14) in Ukraine, found shot dead (March 12); Romanian Olympic fencer Maria Vicol (March 13); and Argentine actress Ana María Giunta (March 14). None of the latter five made the WP:5000.
||Pi Day (#56 raw) falls on March 14, which make sense in countries using the month-day date format like the United States, i.e., 3/14. This year, Pi Day got extra coverage due to both a lack of other news stories, and the fact that 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 a.m. (and also at p.m. in applicable countries) represented the first 10 digits of π. It is all rather silly but good-natured (and full of corny jokes like "Never talk to pi. He'll go on forever"). But anything that encourages people to enjoy math (or at least not fear it) must raise the collective intelligence of the world in a positive way. And maybe a few people will even read A History of Pi by Petr Beckmann, a delightfully quirky volume that not only provides math history and formulas, but also bashes Aristotle and the Romans.
||Fifty Shades of Grey
||The release of the film adaptation of this onetime Twilight fanfic continues to draw fans. A big drop from 736,594 views last week, but still enough to make the Top 10 in a slow news week.
- Just missing the Top 25: Sam Simon (#26), Chris Kyle (#27), United States (#28), Alan Turing (#29), and Google (#30).
- By the 100s (notes from Raw WP:5000): #100: Whiplash (2014 film) (226,950 views); #200: Pharrell Williams (164,009 views); #300: Leonardo DiCaprio (130,991 views); #400: Dragon Ball XenoVerse (111,005 views); #500: Assassin's Creed (98,022 views); #600: FourFiveSeconds (89,981 views); #700: Mexico (82,828 views); #800: Mad Men (76,804 views); #900: Sun (72,146 views); and #999: Black Death (68,553 views) (the non-real page Index.php driven by bot views was #1000).
If articles have been updated, you may need to
Want the latest Signpost delivered to your talk page