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Sex and T.E. Lawrence · I’m not a very ac­tive Wikipedi­an, but I do put oc­ca­sion­al ef­fort in­to the en­try on T.E. Lawrence who is per­haps bet­ter known as “Lawrence of Arabia”. Its cov­er­age of his sex­u­al­i­ty has been par­tic­u­lar­ly con­tentious. This is a re­search piece de­signed to sup­port my work on sta­bi­liz­ing this part of the en­try ...
Wikipedianism · Good heav­en­s, it’s a year or more since I had an ar­gu­ment with Nick Carr about Wikipedi­a. His Potemk­in­pe­dia starts out as a re­ac­tion to Noam Cohen’s Wikipedi­a: Ex­plor­ing Fact Ci­ty, which, I agree with Car­r, most­ly fails to tran­scend the lightweight in dili­gent­ly pur­su­ing the metaphor of Wikipedia-as-city ...
Deletionist Morons · For a nice safe NPOV (“Neutral Point of View”) dis­cus­sion of the is­sues, see Dele­tion­ism and in­clu­sion­ism in Wikipedia. My ex­pe­ri­ence, which isn’t NPOV at al­l, is that Dele­tion­ists are knuckle-dragging drool­er­s, walk­ing va­cant spaces, and as a side-effect gen­er­al­ly, well, what’s the word I’m look­ing for? “Wrong.” ...
Knol · There’s much ado about Knol, but I haven’t no­ticed many Wikipedi­an voic­es. Wel­l, I’ll speak up, and I’m sort of a Wikipedi­an. Ac­tu­al­ly, less so re­cent­ly, which is rel­e­van­t ...
Life Is Complicated · My good­ness, even CNN picked up the sto­ry about Mi­crosoft try­ing to re­tain Rick Jel­liffe to up­date the Wikipedia ar­ti­cles on ODF and OOXML for them, just as the ISO pro­cess around OOXML is get­ting in gear. This rais­es com­pli­cat­ed is­sues about doc­u­ment for­mats and trans­paren­cy and con­flict of in­ter­est; and there’s at least one ele­phant in the room ...
Wikipedia Churn · There’s been some­thing hap­pen­ing re­cent­ly in my lit­tle cor­ner of Wikipedi­a, and I don’t know if it’s an anoma­ly or ev­i­dence of a trend; so this is raw ran­dom anec­do­tal data. By “my lit­tle corner” I mean the small col­lec­tion of ar­ti­cles that I track via a recent-changes Atom feed, have con­tribut­ed to quite a bit, and feel a lit­tle bit of shared re­spon­si­bil­i­ty for. There’s been a surge of re­cent ed­i­to­ri­al ac­tiv­i­ty, with super-energetic (and ap­par­ent­ly well-informed) new con­trib­u­tors trim­ming and tweak­ing and grow­ing the ar­ti­cles, of­ten sev­er­al times per day. In gen­er­al, while I haven’t been con­vinced that 100% of the changes are im­prove­ments, the qual­i­ty of the ar­ti­cles as a whole is def­i­nite­ly trend­ing up. Al­so, the ran­dom drive-by teenage de­face­ments are get­ting fixed re­al­ly fast. Any­one else see­ing this?
Wikipedia: Resistance is Absent · What hap­pened was, I went to check out the new Mi­crosoft search en­gine at live.­com (it’s not bad), and I start­ed by look­ing for my­self. I was kind of sur­prised when my Wikipedia en­try came in ahead of on­go­ing. (Wikipedia’s #2 at Google and Ya­hoo.) I’m see­ing this pat­tern of Wikipedia inch­ing up the search-result charts for a whole lot of things. Search-result rank, on the In­ter­net, more or less equals Author­i­ty. So this trend has to wor­ry the anti-Wikipedians. It wor­ries me too. Maybe it could be re­versed, but I don’t think so. [Up­date: By­ron Sal­tysi­ak sug­gests a more pos­i­tive aproach.]  ...
Yes, I Can Keep Editing! · I have tak­en a se­ri­ous in­ter­est in a fair­ly small num­ber of Wikipedia en­tries, on sub­jects where I think I’m pret­ty ex­pert, and for some time I tried to keep on top of them, nuke others’ ed­its when they were bo­gus, fix gram­mar and spelling prob­lem­s, try­ing to achieve what Toy­ota calls kaizen, or con­tin­u­ous im­prove­men­t. But I can’t any more. I don’t have time to go check back ev­ery day or even ev­ery week, and that’s what a con­sci­en­tious ar­ti­cle min­der ought to do. I to­tal­ly need, for each ar­ti­cle, a feed I can sub­scribe to that will sum­ma­rize changes. Give me that and I can prob­a­bly stay on top of a hand­ful of ar­ti­cles, be­cause most ed­its are good. It can’t be that hard; ev­ery ar­ti­cle al­ready has a “history” page that has the in­for­ma­tion right there; all you’d have to do would be to cre­ate an al­ter­nate ver­sion wrapped in RSS or Atom tags. So, dear Wikipedi­an­s; you want me to in­vest time and at­ten­tion in im­prov­ing the com­mon­s? Give me tool­s. [Hah! And from with­in the bow­els of Wikipedi­a, a voice emerges, say­ing: “Ask and you shall re­ceive.” And, it’s valid Atom 1.0; how many more mil­lion Atom feeds is that? Put me in the Wikipedia fan­boy colum­n.]
The Long Form · I found that Orlowski’s long, in­co­her­ent anti-Wikipedia screed in the Guardian sent my think­ing in some un­ex­pect­ed di­rec­tion­s. Real­ly, it’s too much to ex­pect ra­tio­nal dis­course from a man whose first piece on the sub­ject (that I saw) re­joiced in the URL “khmer_rouge_in_daipers” (sic). Any­how, he as­sem­bles put-downs from the usu­al anti-Wikipedia sus­pect­s; there’s re­al­ly not much new. I will cred­it him for one ob­ser­va­tion that has re­cent­ly be­come ap­par­ent to me: the wear­ing thing about be­ing a ten­der of the Wikipedia flame isn’t the ma­li­cious po­lit­i­cal or racist cra­zies, it’s the con­stant back­ground noise of dumb low-level mi­nor ju­ve­nile van­dal­is­m. After the same-old same-old bash­fest is done, the ar­ti­cle dips in­to soph­more phi­los­o­phy, ar­gu­ing that the Net’s end­less flow of at­om­ized in­for­ma­tion some­how pre­vents us from in­ter­pret­ing or ac­quir­ing wis­dom. And, by the way, the kids these days are no good, what with re­ly­ing on Google in­stead of Real Book­s. Any­how, in among all this tilt­ing at wind­mills there is a (fair­ly well con­cealed) thing to think about, and it has to do with length. It doesn’t both­er me that much of the prose I read these days has an age mea­sured in hours, or is evanes­cent elec­tron­ic tex­t, or is pro­duced by prin­ci­pals rather than in­ter­me­di­aries. But here’s what I’m com­ing to think: in tex­t, short form tends to drive out long for­m. Our novelty-seeking chim­panzee minds would rather chew through a bunch of tasty lit­tle morsels than a full bal­anced meal. For ex­am­ple, when I was just about to turn in last night, I glanced at the New York­er mag­a­zine at the end of the so­fa, got start­ed read­ing Ge­orge Packer’s ex­cel­lent The Les­son of Tal Afar, and didn’t get to bed till way past 1AM. And I learned some things about the state of play in Iraq that no suc­ces­sion of blog posts is gonna teach me, be­cause the ma­te­ri­al re­al­ly needs a dozen or so pages of beautifully-typeset densely-argued dis­course. I’m not go­ing to try to sum­ma­rize Packer’s piece; but if you want to have a re­al­ly ed­u­cat­ed opin­ion about the way things are head­ing over there, you’ll read it. As for me, I’m mak­ing a con­scious ef­fort to do more of my read­ing in big chunks. But I’m not giv­ing up on blogs or the Wikipedi­a, and I re­main con­temp­tu­ous of Orlowski’s posse’s in­ef­fec­tu­al flail­ing at any­thing with that dan­ger­ous smell of the New and In­ter­est­ing.
My Wikipedia Policy · Scoble pub­lished his, and these days, I think hav­ing a pol­i­cy is a good idea. Un­like Scoble, I have edit­ed my en­try, in my case with a very spe­cif­ic goal. Both Scoble’s en­try and mine are la­beled as stub­s, which I think is sil­ly. I sug­gest­ed that we de-stub mine, and no less a per­son than Wikipedia god­dess An­gela Beesley laughed po­lite­ly at me, say­ing it didn’t even have my birth-date and so on. So I filled in the ba­sic bio and now it’s plen­ty long and I’m even­tu­al­ly go­ing to run out of pa­tience and de-stub it my­self. Hey Rob, you want me to de-stub you too? Why don’t you put in your birth-date and cit­i­zen­ship and oth­er ba­sics first? The oth­er thing I do, and I rec­om­mend that ev­ery­one else with an en­try do, is get a Wikipedia ac­count and put your en­try on your watch­list, so that if some­one starts de­fac­ing, you’ll no­tice. Wikipedia doesn’t pro­vide feeds on watch­list­s, but I think they should, it would im­prove the ef­fi­cien­cy of error-correction. I see Petrik de Heus has al­ready hand­craft­ed a watch­list feed gen­er­a­tor in Python. [Up­date: Thanks to AdamJa­cobMiller and Pa­triceN­eff for clean­ing up my ar­ti­cle and de-stubbing it. Scoble’s still a stub though.]
Wikipedia Notes · This week I had a pleas­an­t, re­laxed, sit-down con­ver­sa­tion with Jim­my Wales, the main man be­hind the Wikipedi­a. The pur­pose of this note is to pass along some in­ter­est­ing facts about the project that I hadn’t pre­vi­ous­ly known. This is time­ly in that there has been a re­cent flare-up of the usu­al Wikipedia con­tro­ver­sies, with most­ly the same old play­ers fling­ing the same old slime; those who care might want to re­vis­it my es­say from last year, which takes a care­ful look at the project as con­trast­ed to the world of con­ven­tion­al ref­er­ence pub­lish­ing. I stand by my con­clu­sion: the Wikipedia dwarfs its crit­ic­s. The rest of this piece is just a recita­tion of fact­s, but some of them are sur­pris­ing. [Up­date: PHP@Ya­hoo!] ...
Editing Benedict · Dan Gill­mor point­ed out that Wikipedia has a thor­ough, schol­ar­ly ar­ti­cle on the new Pope. I can im­prove on that: I hap­pened to have the Sistine-chapel we­b­cam in a cor­ner of the screen when the white smoke came out, and ob­served the Wikipedia ar­ti­cle when it was on­ly min­utes old. At which point I no­ticed that a de­fac­er with a sense of hu­mor had in­sert­ed some­thing about the for­mer Car­di­nal Ratzinger dream­ing of re­tir­ing to “a small Nazi village”, but it had been fixed by the time I got there. Just now, I de­cid­ed that the phrase “Benedict XVI is the 8th Ger­man pope in history;” would be im­proved by los­ing the words “in history” so I nuked ’em. Which is to say, Dan’s got a point. I see a fu­ture in which, when you want to talk about any­thing worth talk­ing about, you link ei­ther to its URI, or its Wikipedia en­try, or both.
Ërüdïtïön · There’s ex­haus­tive re­search and schol­ar­ly pub­lish­ing, and then there’s pop cul­ture, and some­times they meet in ëcstätïc trïümph. Oh my good­ness gra­cious, Jon Udell has built a won­der­ful mon­u­ment of mëtä-schölärshïp on this base.
Wikipedia Again · “Reference Publishing” is the busi­ness of pub­lish­ing “reference works”: dic­tio­nar­ies, en­cy­clo­pe­di­as, and the like. By def­i­ni­tion, it in­cludes the Wikipedia, which is in­tend­ed as a ref­er­ence work. I have re­marked kind­ly on the Wikipedia and tak­en ex­cep­tion when it came un­der at­tack. There have been a lot of voic­es chim­ing in on this is­sue; here­with a sur­vey and, based on my years in ref­er­ence pub­lish­ing and be­cause I care pro­found­ly, I’ll add my own ob­ser­va­tion­s ...
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