William Beutler on Wikipedia

Posts Tagged ‘Huffington Post’

Jimmy Wales Weighs in on Flagged Revisions

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on September 22, 2009 at 11:14 am

My post this weekend made a point of separating uninformed Wikipedia criticism from informed Wikipedia criticism. One that I listed as meriting a response was the weirdly-titled article “Where Wikipedia Ends” by Farhad Manjoo in Time. In fact, only a day later Wikipedia co-founder and (these days mostly) spiritual leader Jimmy Wales took on the hype at Huffington Post. Here’s the core of his response:

[M]aybe you read this story on Time.com: “They recently instituted a major change, imposing a layer of editorial control on entries about living people. In the past, only articles on high-profile subjects like Barack Obama were protected from anonymous revisions. Under the new plan, people can freely alter Wikipedia articles on, say, their local officials or company head — but those changes will become live only once they’ve been vetted by a Wikipedia administrator.”

That’s all very interesting, albeit completely untrue.

Imagine if the stories told instead said things like this:

“In a major shift towards greater openness, Wikipedia is taking the first steps towards doing away with controls that kept certain pages ‘protected’ or ‘locked’ for many years. Previously, certain high profile and high risk biographies and other entries were kept locked to prevent vandalism by users who had not registered accounts on the site for a ‘waiting period’ of 4 days.”

“The new feature, long advocated by the site’s founder Jimmy Wales, eliminates that restriction by allowing anyone to edit these pages, even without logging in. The secret to being able to do this is that the new feature creates a queue where tens of thousands of longtime users of the site can approve these changes – changes that were previously completely forbidden.”

What? Really? The solution to the problem of bad speech is actually more speech? Openness and collaboration actually work?

Nevertheless, it is true. English Wikipedia will soon launch a new feature that will allow you to edit, as an inexperienced user, articles that have previously been locked more-or-less continuously for years.

To read more about flagged revisions, see Flagged Revisions Come to the English Wikipedia.

Thoughts on Wikipedia and Scientology

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on June 8, 2009 at 9:21 am

scientology_symbol_logoIt’s unfortunate that The Wikipedian has been in suspended animation for the week or so, because it has been a big past week or so for Wikipedia in the news. On May 28, Wikipedia’s Arbitration Committee — the court of last resort for Wikipedia disputes — banned all IP addresses associated with the Church of Scientology from editing Wikipedia for repeated disruptive editing and the use of “sock puppet” accounts to tilt Wikipedia consensus on Scientology-related articles.

The decision has been all over the tech and mainstream press since, from The Register’s first report on May 29 to the New York Times finally covering the story this morning. In between, Google News shows hundreds of results about the subject.

I have not looked closely at the decision, but my own general take on it is about what you might expect: Wikipedia reserves the right to regulate its own community and, upon fair consideration, expel those who are determined to prevent Wikipedia from operating. This was certainly the case here, as the deliberations ran for more than six months, reportedly the longest in Wikipedia history. It is not the case, as one Huffington Post contributor erroneously imagined, that “all members” of Scientology were banned from editing. Instead, Wikipedia merely banned IP addresses known to be controlled by Scientology. Any Scientologist can still log on from home and, one expects, have their individual account banned if they too persist in deleting good information that the Church does not like.

This is not the first time Wikipedia has taken such an action, and I’d say it’s easily less controversial than the ban on an entire Utah neighborhood in 2007 for incredibly involved reasons that you can read about here.

If I had an objection it would be that an indefinite block, which is what the ArbCom imposed here, should be less desirable than a period of one year or perhaps even two. However, it is probably the case that a year or two from now Scientology would be just as interested in deleting critical information about their organization from Wikipedia as they are now. And to some extent it is likely to continue in any case.

After all, the flagship Scientology article has a long history as one of the most contentious on Wikipedia. Visit the discussion page, and you’ll find 27 archive pages of discussion stretching back to 2001. (Few articles are so active as to need their discussions archived; and the Roman Catholic Church, with vastly millions more adherents, has just 26 archived pages of discussions associated ith its article) The very first, undated, comment on the Scientology Talk page was this one:

As in entries on like organizations such as The Local Church of Witness Lee and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, no fair discussion can take place on this topic. If anyone dare edit this article, it will be swiftly and aggressively reverted to reflect only the official point of view of Scientology. Try it.

And in the week since, more than 6200 words have been expended on the Scientology Talk page, as veteran and newbie editors alike — some of them undoubtedly Scientologists — continue argue over what the article should say.

Scientology logo via Wikipedia, reused here with the same non-free use rationale.

Mr. Wales’ Neighborhood

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on April 12, 2009 at 10:13 am

For the fourth year in a row, a company named Information Architects has released what it calls a “Web Trend Map” — based loosely on the Tokyo subway map — that is nothing if not prime link bait, and The Wikipedian is unashamed to chomp down. Here is a crop from the much larger original showing Wikipedia’s “neighborhood”:


For the record, the four websites situated closest to Wikipedia are HowStuffWorks, the non-Bill O’Reilly, Twitter and Huffington Post. To which I can only say: sure, okay.

Wikipedia is on the “Knowledge Line” which explains its proximity to O’Reilly and HowStuffWorks, where its connection to Twitter and Wikipedia is based on their relative popularity on each “Line.” The size of the name and height of the station both correspond to Wikipedia’s influence as a function of the creators’ estimation. Wikipedia is in fact listed fifth overall, behind only Google, Yahoo, MSN and Apple. It’s a little arbitrary, but these things always are.

As for the tiny figures saying the names of “Trendsetters,” well, I wonder how either Jimmy Wales or Larry Sanger feel about the latter’s inclusion at this late date. But that’s a subject for another post.