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What Happened to CongressEdits?
The Thrilling Life and Untold Death of Twitter’s Most Important Wikipedia Bot

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on January 17, 2019 at 11:59 am

Wikipedia and Twitter are very different internet platforms, but parallels can be found if you look closely enough (as The Wikipedian did a few years back). One important commonality is bots written by developers that automate certain tasks. On Wikipedia, bots can be found fixing typos, reverting vandalism, and performing repetitive administrative procedures. On Twitter, bots automate tweeting, retweeting, and related behaviors.

One of the most newsworthy bots of the past five years ties both platforms together. We’re talking, of course, about @CongressEdits, created to track edits made to Wikipedia from U.S. Capitol computers.

Launched in summer 2014, the account quickly became a cause célèbre, and if you wonder why, I’d like to invite you to familiarize yourself with the unavoidably self-referential Wikipedia article titled “United States Congressional staff edits to Wikipedia”. (Congressional staffers edit Wikipedia a lot, often embarrassingly, sometimes scandalously.) Over the next few years, CongressEdits would prove to be the source of news stories both serious and just for fun, revealing efforts to hide unflattering information and announce the availability of Choco Tacos in congressional vending machines. But then, in late 2018, @CongressEdits disappeared. If you visit today, you’ll see a standard message: “This account has been suspended.”

CongressEdits in 2014

What happened? Let’s start at the beginning: the account was set up (and the code behind it written) by Ed Summers, a software developer then working at the Library of Congress. He had previously established other Twitter bots, and also created WikiStream, a visualization of recent changes to Wikipedia displayed in real-time. CongressEdits was hardly a planned project, in fact it was “largely just an experiment,” as Summers explained to The Wikipedian in an interview. His inspiration for the new account came from the sudden appearance of @ParliamentEdits, which then and now tracks Wikipedia edits made from the UK Parliament. The creator of that account, Tom Scott, had piped the two known IP addresses for Parliament through the IFTTT automation service, which then published its findings to Twitter. ParliamentEdits was simple and clever. But a similar tool focused on the U.S. Congress would not be so simple: computers at the Capitol Building and its half-dozen office buildings are known to have multiple ranges and within them[1]Approximately 30 are known to be in use. —Last updated 1/22/19 thousands of possible addresses. After asking around, Summers received a list of known congressional IP addresses from GovTrack.us, an organization focused on government transparency. Summers put in a few hours of coding, and on July 8, 2014, CongressEdits was born.

Almost from the start, CongressEdits was the subject of supportive coverage—first from tech and politics sites like Ars Technica and TechPresident, and soon enough from The New York Times as well. Before long, the bot had its very own article on Wikipedia. What’s more, all the attention on CongressEdits (and to a lesser extent, ParliamentEdits) inspired developers in other countries to borrow the idea—and in some cases, Summers’ open source code—to create similar Twitter bots focused on the legislatures of Australia, Canada, Germany, and other countries. Summers is happy to have played the role he did, but also thinks it would have happened without him. “If I didn’t do it, somebody else would have done it soon after me,” he said. “It was just in the air at the time.” Still, CongressEdits proved to be the most famous among the bots, eventually gaining more than 60,000 followers.[2]Encouraged by the success of his side project, Summers created another bot, called @CongressEditors, which tracks edits made to the Wikipedia biographies of congressional members themselves. Later, he returned to CongressEdits and added screenshots of each edit, making it easier still for followers to scrutinize congressional IP edits.

Twitter-addicted journalists were soon mining CongressEdits for story opportunities, whether frivolous (The Daily Beast interviewed a 20-year-old congressional intern who admitted to vandalizing Wikipedia for funsies) or frightening (Mashable discovered edits watering down Wikipedia’s description of a Senate report on CIA torture). On multiple occasions, Wikipedia went so far as to temporarily block IP addresses from editing Wikipedia, for periods of up to three months, before restoring access in the name of openness. Some wondered if CongressEdits actually encouraged bad behavior. These included Wikipedia’s own Jimmy Wales, who speculated in an interview with the BBC “that it only provoke[s] someone—some prankster there in the office—to have an audience now for the pranks”. Others saw worse scenarios—as one developer said: “I just wonder when the first smear campaign leverages the watch bots.”

Which brings us to the autumn of 2018. The Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh started off as a routine exercise in shared powers among the U.S. government branches, but ended as one of the most bitterly partisan nomination battles in history. On Wednesday, September 27, in a dramatic sequence of events before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Christine Blasey Ford, a former high school classmate of the judge, accused him of sexual assault, a charge Kavanaugh angrily rebutted. It was the next big moment in the #metoo movement, and the fight turned personal—in the committee hearing room, around dinner tables, and especially on social media.

On Thursday, September 28, a journalist alerted Summers that a CongressEdits tweet was going viral. This was nothing new, and Summers didn’t investigate until the next morning—when he found that Twitter had suspended the account. The story was already in the Washington Post: an anonymous person using a congressional IP address had “doxxed” several Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, posting their phone numbers and even home addresses—“personally identifiable information”, or PII in legal terminology. This was no regular chicanery, Summers said: “In the past, people have noticed that the bot had a lot of followers and then if they edited Wikipedia from within the Capitol building, they could basically send messages. … But leaking PII through the edits themselves was something new.”

Redacted CongressEdits doxxing tweet

On Wikipedia, the edits were swiftly reverted and suppressed from public view. On Twitter, with the offending tweets deleted, Summers appealed to Twitter for reinstatement. The request was approved, and soon CongressEdits was operating as normal. But this didn’t last either: the senators’ personal information was again added from a Capitol IP address, and Twitter suspended the account once more. Within days a former Democratic staffer was identified and arrested, but for CongressEdits it was too late.

Aghast, Summers was ready to simply give up. His mind changed after speaking to Daniel Schuman, policy director for the government transparency organization Demand Progress,[3]co-founded by the late activist, programmer, and Wikipedia contributor Aaron Swartz who persuaded him that additional code could be introduced which would scan edits for patterns common to such information: seven-digit strings for phone numbers, @ symbols for email addresses, and the like. Offending tweets could be withheld, or put in a queue for review, and Summers was willing to do it. He appealed again to Twitter, explaining that he would introduce a filter were the account to be restored. Instead he simply received a form letter stating: “Your account was permanently suspended due to multiple or repeat violations of Twitter Rules … This account will not be restored.”

As of January 2019, the account remains suspended.[4]There is, however, an archive on GitHub. Reached for comment, a Twitter spokesperson told The Wikipedian, “We don’t comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons.” Summers eventually did post the revised code to the Twitter alternative site Mastodon, and so CongressEdits lives on—but in a place where almost no one will think to look for it. It now has just 382 followers.

The controversy surrounding CongressEdits thus became another casualty of the weaponization of social media, an increasingly common phenomenon. Twitter knows it has a harassment problem, has made repeated pledges to address the issue, and has taken serious steps to crack down on abusive bots and individuals. So far, they have yielded mixed results. It’s not uncommon to find stories of accounts suspended for reasons mild and mysterious. Sometimes Twitter’s rules enforcement has arguably contributed to the problem—for instance, the decision to ban @ImposterBuster, a bot which confronted users making racist comments.

To be sure, bots deserve more scrutiny than individual users. Last summer, Twitter introduced stringent new guidelines requiring botmakers to resubmit applications to continue their operations, no matter their content. These rules have apparently imperiled another internet-famous bot, @RealPressSecBot, which reformats tweets from @RealDonaldTrump to look like an official White House press release. In a December tweet thread, its creator, Russel Neiss, expressed his frustration and refusal to comply, and promptly began selling sponsored posts to monetize his protest until such time as this bot, too, is shut down.

Should CongressEdits return to Twitter, it will return to a much different internet than the one that gave birth to it. Using open technology for spirited problem-solving has given way to recently-realized threats and increased security measures. If unblocked, Summers says he would consider bringing it back to Twitter, but wouldn’t do so absent a clear message of support from the Wikipedia community: “I would take it up at that point,” he said, “but I didn’t feel like I was going to unilaterally do that.”

Unable to speak up for itself, CongressEdits’ legacy is undefined. Given the events of last fall, its critics might seem to be vindicated. Schuman, who had sought to help Summers restore the account, believes its real value was invisible: “I actually viewed it as something that inhibited people who have conflicts of interest from editing their own pages,” he told The Wikipedian. Summers is more cautious, but stands by his creation: “If I had to say if it’s a net positive or net negative, I would definitely say it’s a net positive, right? … I think it’s useful to think critically about our information sources that way.”

But now, Schuman laments, “This valuable tool just doesn’t exist anymore.”


1 Approximately 30 are known to be in use. —Last updated 1/22/19
2 Encouraged by the success of his side project, Summers created another bot, called @CongressEditors, which tracks edits made to the Wikipedia biographies of congressional members themselves. Later, he returned to CongressEdits and added screenshots of each edit, making it easier still for followers to scrutinize congressional IP edits.
3 co-founded by the late activist, programmer, and Wikipedia contributor Aaron Swartz
4 There is, however, an archive on GitHub.

Twitter and Wikipedia: Parallel Challenges

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on February 8, 2016 at 12:44 pm


Twitter has had an almost unprecedented run of bad press lately. Its stock is down, its executives are out, and uncertainty reigns. In recent weeks, Twitter has announced (or had leaked) plans to change the platform’s famous 140-character limit, its reverse-chronological order of messages, and the site’s most vocal users are fearing, and saying, the worst.

The more I read of it, the more I think about the bad press Wikipedia has received over the past few years, and I see some striking parallels.

To be sure, they are very different entities. Most importantly, Twitter Inc. is a publicly traded company, while the Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit organization. But both are important platforms in the online information ecosystem facing significant questions about not just its future but even its present. Both have much in common in their history and structure, and in the challenges they now face:

  • Wikipedia and Twitter both started out as side projects of other projects that weren’t going anywhere: Wikipedia of traditionally-edited online encyclopedia Nupedia, and Twitter of possibly-before-its-time podcast directory Odeo.
  • Both are basically monopolies in their particular corner of the information ecosystem: Wikipedia has no competitor in collating the “sum of all human knowledge” into readable text; Twitter is the only public, real-time conversation network (in perhaps this alone it has bested Facebook). Both have been described as a “utility” at one time or another.
  • Both are among the most-recognized, heavily-visited destinations on the web. Google pretty much points searchers to Wikipedia by default, and recently re-upped a deal to provide Twitter results in searches. Both are top 10 global websites: according to Alexa, Wikipedia is 7th and Twitter is 10th. In the U.S., Wikipedia is currently 6th and Twitter 8th.
  • Both are open publishing platforms, inviting its readers to be contributors. Even so, the vast majority of participants (broadly defined) choose only to consume. Wikipedia’s reader base has always vastly exceeded its editors, which isn’t a huge surprise. But Twitter has been trending this way for a number of years. (See also: the Pareto principle, the Internet’s 1% rule).
  • One possible reason why both have so few active contributors is that they are both notoriously difficult to use. This is rather obviously true for Wikipedia. It is, after all, an encyclopedia, and making beneficial contributions to it requires time, knowledge and inclination (not to mention persistence and thick skin). Twitter’s 140-character simplicity belies its true complexity, as Walt Mossberg has argued recently.
  • Both are organized as democratic, non-hierarchical platforms where everyone theoretically has an equal chance to be seen and heard. But of course invisible hierarchies emerge, as certain power users self-identify through the strength of social ties or canny dexterity with the platform. Twitter at least makes follower counts public, while Wikipedia is considerably more opaque.
  • For each, active users grew dramatically (even exponentially) until hitting a peak and then declining. This happened for Wikipedia in 2007, which happened to be the same year Twitter first started gaining traction. However, this growth ran out by 2009, making for a very similar looking user growth-and-decline charts:
  • Growth and decline: Wikipedia editors at left; Twitter audience at right.

    Growth and decline: Wikipedia editors at left; Twitter audience at right.

  • Both allow users anonymity—or, more accurately, pseudonymity—which arguably fosters a community culture suffering from a lack of responsibility and accountability. Relatedly, both have had significant trouble with the so-called Gamergate movement, and female users of both platforms have reported serious harassment issues.
  • Fallings out among top leadership have been the norm since the beginning. At Wikipedia, co-founder Larry Sanger became disillusioned with the project, leaving Jimmy Wales free to bask in the glory of being a “digital god” as the Evening Standard actually called him last week. As Nick Bilton described in his book, Hatching Twitter, Twitter’s most contentious co-founders, Jack Dorsey and Ev Williams, were at each other’s throats almost constantly. Multiple defenestrations later, Dorsey once again leads the company as CEO.
  • Besides the personal squabbles among its founders, both have experienced very recent and very concerning internal confusion at the company / parent organization, riven with conflicts about the future of the organization, and a revolving door of high-level executives. For Twitter, this has been in the tech press almost constantly. For Wikipedia, this has been covered most extensively by only The Wikipedia Signpost and a handful of blogs, including this one.
  • The direction of each has caused immense consternation in the community of power users who are conflicted about revisions to the platform, both rumored and launched. Impending changes to Twitter’s character limit and algorithmic order of tweets can be compared to community revolts over several recent software initiatives, especially the Visual Editor debacle, which sought to fundamentally change the nature of editors’ interaction with the site. At present, Wikipedians are anxious to know if this “Knowledge Engine” project is another.
  • For both, the silver lining is that their position is secure so long as arguments are being had there: that people care about what is being said on each website. No matter what ails each one, no competitor is likely to displace them, and their core function is likely to be relevant for the foreseeable future.

Are there lessons for one or the other? I’m not so sure. One conclusion that does occur to me as a longtime Wikipedia editor, observer and fan: how fortunate is Wikipedia to be a non-profit foundation right now! Whatever complaints one may have about Jimmy Wales, and there are many valid ones, his decision to forsake the chance to become “an Internet billionaire” on the back of Wikipedia, as The New York Times once put it, infelicitously, owes significantly to its central role on the Internet today. Had, for example, Wales insisted on monetizing Wikipedia with advertising (something Twitter once, long ago, promised it would never do, and only recently has begun turning off ads for power users) the rest of Wikipedia’s contributors might have walked out the door along with the 2002 “Spanish fork”.

Twitter, on the other hand, was founded by startup veterans who probably never seriously considered doing anything but become Internet billionaires. (For what it’s worth, Dorsey and Williams both achieved this goal.) I come here not to criticize the ambition, but to observe that it hasn’t worked out so well for the platform. In its attempts to generate revenue to match their brand recognition, Twitter has experimented with several different strategies and business models. Unfortunately, these often ran at cross-purposes to what Twitter was good at, as observers from Ben Thompson to Twitter investor Chris Sacca have both written. That it is now publicly traded is a worse headache, and places on it a burden of expectations that may ultimately spell its doom as an independent company.

Fortunately for Wikipedia, it has a clearer notion of what it should be. It is an encyclopedia. Its recent struggles may owe something to the fact that the Wikimedia Foundation doesn’t always seem to recognize that. Twitter may have largely succeed at becoming “the pulse of the planet” but, for a company whose shareholders expect continuing growth, that isn’t enough.

The Top 10 Wikipedia Stories of 2014

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on January 5, 2015 at 1:54 pm

Every twelve months the Gregorian calendar resets itself, and I pull together a roundup of the most important events, happenings and newsworthy items that marked the previous year on Wikipedia. I’ve done this each year since 2010 and, the last two times, I went so long that I split the post into two. This time, I tried to keep it short. In the end, I just kept it to one post. Which I guess counts as short for The Wikipedian. So let’s get started!

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10. The Ballad of Wil Sinclair

Look, I don’t like it any more than you do that we’re beginning here, but we can’t pretend this didn’t happen. What happened? Soon after the Wikimedia Foundation picked its new executive director, Lila Tretikov, and before she actually took over from Sue Gardner, Tretikov’s spouse showed up on the foundation’s email list, and in other forums, and made his presence known. Wil came across as a decent fellow at first, then a bit obsessive, and then he made common cause with critics of the Wikimedia project at Wikipediocracy, and it threatened to overwhelm Tretikov’s tenure before it really got underway. By the summer, however, Wil Sinclair largely withdrew from online commentary about Wikipedia, and the controversy appears to have died with it.

9. Oh yeah, that Belfer Center thing…

320px-Belfer_CenterOne of Wikipedia’s eternal themes involves conflict of interest. As a public good, Wikipedia has significant potential to affect private fortunes, for good or ill, and this is not the last time you’ll hear about it in this list. One of the more unusual (and alarming) manifestations of the conundrum involved the Wikimedia Foundation working with the Stanton Foundation and Belfer Center at Harvard University to create a paid position, funded by mega-donor Stanton, coordinated by WMF, which had the effect of boosting the professional reputation of Belfer’s president. Oh, did you know the principals at Stanton and Belfer are husband and wife? Yeah, that kind of changes things. Blame seemed to follow Gardner out the door, but Wikipedia’s difficulty in forming partnerships with other non-profits continues.

8. Wikipedia gets a facelift

Nearly four years after Wikipedia updated its default look from the Monobook skin[1]Does anyone else find this term creepy, or is it just me? to the current Vector, the site got another new look, albeit a more subtle one. Specifically, article titles and headings within pages were updated from a sans-serif typeface to a serif typeface. Goodbye Helvetica, hello Georgia! (At least in the headings.) You can never really underestimate Wikipedians’ resistance to change, and so a debate naturally ensued. Following the usual expected gripes, holdouts presumably switched their personal preferences to the old style, and the new look has become the accepted standard.

7. Jimbo’s UAE prize money

This is the most recent item on the list; in fact, I wrote about it just last week. In short, Wikipedia’s famous co-founder, Jimmy Wales, accepted a $500,000 cash prize from the government of the UAE, which has a dismal human rights record. Wales received criticism from members of the Wikipedia community and questions from at least one news outlet. Wales then announced he was going to give the money to charity, or maybe start a foundation, and claimed this was his plan all along, denying what seemed to everyone else like a simple matter of cause-and-effect. Even if Wales does start a new organization, there’s not much evidence to suggest it will go anywhere.

6. Wikipedia’s education program grows up

Wiki_Education_Foundation_logoIf there’s a happier balance to the unfortunate Belfer situation, let’s say it’s the maturation of the Wiki Education Foundation. Beginning as an in-house program in 2010, the organization spun off on its own in February 2014 under the leadership of WMF veteran Frank Schulenburg. In my 2010 list, “Wikipedia in education” was the fourth item, remarking that the two communities appeared to be at a turning point: back then, teachers’ attitude toward Wikipedia had until then been one of fear and loathing, but nowadays more and more universities are offering course credit for improving Wikipedia articles. While the WEF and its predecessor program can’t take all of the credit—and sure, student plagiarism is still an issue—it does go to show that the Wikipedia community can solve at least some of its problems, and well-considered partnerships can play an important role.

5. Who doesn’t love some CongressEdits?

It’s almost hard to believe it took until summer 2014 for someone to realize you could attach an RSS feed of changes to Wikipedia articles coming from IP addresses belonging to the U.S. Congress to a Twitter account, thereby publishing an obscure list in a very public way, but that’s exactly what happened. Actually, the UK-focused @ParliamentEdits account was first, and accounts focused on other countries’ legislatures soon followed, but @CongressEdits made the biggest splash. In each case, journalists latched on to amusing nonsense and legitimately concerning changes both, and the U.S. Congressional IP was blocked for a time. It wasn’t the first time this has happened; it wasn’t even a new revelation that congressional staffers edit Wikipedia for ill (and good!) but this was too much fun to ignore.

4. Can PR and Wikipedia just get along?

Full disclosure: I have a huge conflict of interest with this topic; as readers of this site are surely aware, this was a big project for me last year. Last February, I brought together an ad hoc group of digital PR executives, Wikipedia veterans, and interested academics (some folks fell into more than one category) for an all-day roundtable discussion in Washington, DC, to talk about the differences and commonalities between the Wikipedia community and communications industry. Out of that emerged a multi-agency statement spelling out a set of principles that participating firms would adopt, a sort of open letter to Wikipedia stating their intention to follow its rules and help their colleagues and clients do the same. We started with about 10 agencies signed, and the list more than tripled by late summer. It was a good start—but a significantly better situation is still a long way off.

3. New (and improved?) Terms of Use

240px-Wikimedia_Foundation_RGB_logo_with_textRelated to number 4, but developing separately, was the Wikimedia Foundation’s announcement—mere days after the multi-agency statement was published—that the non-profit was amending its Terms of Use for the first time since anyone could remember (give or take) in order to require anyone paid for their contributions to disclose their affiliations. The decision grew out of legal uncertainties revealed by the Wiki-PR controversy (covered in this list last year) and was not unanticipated. Like all other seemingly minor changes, it was challenged by community veterans who believed it would have negative consequences for non-marketers compensated for involvement in Wikipedia, among other complaints. But if that’s happened, it hasn’t been visible. Chilling effects are not to be discounted, but there’s no evidence yet that any worst case scenarios have come to pass. Instead, it merely codified best practices that have been around for years: it used to be, if you have a conflict of interest, you were best advised to disclose it. Now you must.

2. The Media Viewer controversy

It seems like every year now I have to reserve a prominent spot for a major argument between the Wikipedia community and the San Francisco-based software-development and outreach-focused non-profit created to support it (the WMF). Last year, my top story focused on the divisive internal battles over the Visual Editor—a big change that did not remain the default for long. The year before, it was a somewhat different argument over whether to take a stand on SOPA / PIPA legislation. This summer, the Visual Editor argument essentially repeated itself. This time the debate centered on the Media Viewer and whether it should be default for logged-in and non-logged-in users—that is, whether readers who clicked on an image should see it come up on a page with metadata readily visible, as it always had been, or whether they should see it in a lightbox, and if site editors and mere readers should see the same thing. No sense getting into the details, because I lack the six hours necessary to produce a worthwhile summary. However, let’s observe that consensus in July seemed to be that it should be turned off by default. But I just checked, and indeed it’s the default, logged-in or not. In other words: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

1. Lila Tretikov and Wikipedia’s uncertain future

It seems like you can’t so much as create a piped wikilink disambiguation redirect these days without running into another media think piece about the state of Wikipedia. MIT Technology Review was ahead of the curve with an October 2013 story on the “decline of Wikipeda”. In March, The Economist jumped in with the tortured coinage “WikiPeaks” (although they quoted me, so I nonetheless approve). Slate has gone in for this kind of coverage at least twice, first in June with a contribution by longtime Wikipedian Dariusz Jemielniak, and then from staff writer David Auerbach in December. In late 2014, former Reason editor Virginia Postrel turned it into a whodunnit: “Who Killed Wikipedia?

Lila_Tretikov_16_April_2014Am I missing any? Probably, but they mostly tell the same story: Wikipedia is too bureaucratic; its editors are rude to each other and more so to outsiders; that might have something to do with the fact that it’s pretty much all white guys; old editors are choosing to quit; new editors aren’t replacing them fast enough; the community and the foundation are at each others’ throats; Wikipedia has too much money and too little direction. Without further ado, let me say, welcome to your first year as Wikimedia Executive Director, Lila Tretikov!

Pretty much all of the questions that I asked upon Sue Gardner’s announced departure nearly two years ago are still in play, only more so. I summed up a lot of this in a post from November 2013, “Wikipedia on the Brink?” If there’s any good news, it’s that Wikipedia is still, well, on the brink. It hasn’t fallen off a cliff, certainly. In some ways it’s more successful than ever. But ask a longtime veteran of either the volunteer community or its San Francisco non-profit how things are going—catch them on their way out the door, if necessary—and you’ll find any number of concerns, including some I either haven’t heard or am simply forgetting.

It’s not entirely up to Lila Tretikov what Wikipedia’s future will be, however she has more power than anyone—including even Uncle Jimbo—to steer a new direction. Will the foundation keep making grants and developing software that its community doesn’t seem to like? Will she keep trying to grow the community as it currently exists, or seek to expand it in unexpected ways? Wikipedia is no longer a hot new (not-for-profit) startup, but a maturing organization stuck in comfortable old ways that may be holding it back. Here’s hoping some answers to these questions will start to emerge in 2015.

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Previous years’ top ten Wikipedia stories can be found here:

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Belfer Center image by Bostonian13; Wiki Education Foundation logo and Wikimedia Foundation logo courtesy the respective organization; Lila Tretikov photo by Lane Hartwell; all images via Wikimedia Commons.


1 Does anyone else find this term creepy, or is it just me?

Twitter + Wikipedia = How Can I Not Write About This?

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on March 3, 2009 at 6:57 am

I hadn’t realized that Sen. John McCain was on Twitter as @SenJohnMcCain, but with 127,000+ followers I am going to assume that it’s the real one and @JohnMcCain at ~6,700 followers is just a supporter. Given McCain’s war injuries it’s unlikely he’s typing these up himself (all updates are “from web”) but it’s nevertheless official, and the following tweet was just featured on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal a few moments ago:


I wasn’t familiar with the project, but a quick Google search reveals that he is obviously talking about the Online Nevada Encyclopedia.

Although I tend to share McCain’s skepticism that an encyclopedia of state history is something the federal government should be funding, my Wikipedia-specific thought was: Wikipedia guidelines may well not allow many of the articles the Nevada Humanities organization might want to create. In fact, Wikipedia suggests to frustrated newcomers that if Wikipedia doesn’t fit their goals, then perhaps starting another wiki is the way to go (where Jimmy Wales’ for-profit Wikia is theoretically poised to benefit).

Upon closer inspection, this putative New Mexico “encyclopedia” is not itself presented as a wiki, the writing style is far different and the so are the citation styles. The site runs to perhaps a few hundred articles at most so it’s highly conceivable that many or most could be rewritten and included in Wikipedia. But somehow I doubt Nevada would get a federal grant to do that.