Me in the New Yorker

I made it into a recent article in The New Yorker. Predictably enough its not about science, but about wikipedia. Whats interesting about it is how hard internal wiki “politics” are for outsiders to understand. Despite talking to the author several times, and a fact-checker, the overall tone of the piece is wrong, as it concerns my bit. I doubt I can explain…
Continue reading “Me in the New Yorker”

Global warming featured on wikipedia

[[Global Warming]] became a “featured article” on wikipedia about a month ago (long tedious arguments about the stylistic wording, and about the reference format) and today was the “featured article of the day” on the front page. Which has lead, of course, to an enormous edit count for today (many of them vandalism) – check the page history. The actual sum of changes kept on the page is tiny, unsurprisingly, since its been argued over for so long already.

Wikipedia vs Britannica; continued

A while ago, Nature did a study comparing wikipedia to Britannica (you can read my take on it here – oh, just look at the title I used :-).

Now it seems that Britannica weren’t very happy about the results, and have responded: We discovered in Nature’s work a pattern of sloppiness, indifference to basic scholarly standards, and flagrant errors so numerous they completely invalidated the results. And so on.
Continue reading “Wikipedia vs Britannica; continued”

Wikipedia and the Economist

The Economist has a survey on Open-source business (subs req). The usual suspects – apache, linux – come up, and of course so does wikipedia. And naturally enough (since this is a pile of econ journos who know b*gg*r all about wiki) they make the traditional mistakes…

  • Saying that the George Bush article is edit-locked. It isn’t. Go visit it and confirm that for yourself; check the edit history to see that it has been unlocked for a while (though I think it was semi-protected (i.e. no anon edits) for a bit).
  • Misunderstanding policies: A blunt new policy was promulgated: “Don’t be a dick.”. Well, [[WP:DICK]] does exit (though its really a meta: page) but its more a statement of principles than a policy.
  • Misunderstanding the who can edit: Wikipedia changed its rules so that only registered users can edit existing entries, and new contributors must wait a few days before they can start new ones.. This is obviously false, as an attempt to edit while not logged in, or a glance at a page history, will confirm. The true bit is that anon users can’t start new pages.

The good point about wiki is that false info can be removed and corrected. How long will it be before the Economist corrects its mistakes?

Talking about global warming and wikipedia

I was invited to give a talk to CHASE – Cambridge Hi-tech Association of Small Enterprises – nice people even if they haven’t quite got round to updating their web site yet 🙂 The subject was to be global warming – no problem – and wikipedia. The later I’ve never tried talking about, and found it a bit of a puzzle as to what they wanted and what to say. The talk-in-two-halves is here, and to buff up my rather tarnished open-source credentials I’ve put it up as a .sxi only. As you can see, the GW bit is only slightly altered from before (apart from a dramatic and startling new paper by Lachlan-Cope and Connolley on tropical teleconnections to Antarctica, which I didn’t include, there is little that needs updating). As usual, I only had time to talk a little about the various common objections: this time audience reaction picked “The Day After Tomorrow Will Not Happen”. People love these pseudo-paradoxical things far too much.

But on to the wiki bits. I tried “how many people have used wiki” – most people put their hands up; “how many have edited” – quite a few; maybe 1/3 – 1/2; “how many have an account – only 3 I think. One of the questions they were interested in was “can we get our commercial stuff on?” though not phrased quite so nakedly. The answer is commerical objects are allowed, if notable, but having yourself deleted (or even just voted on) for non-notability can be painful. After that I moved on to the structure that makes wiki work, which was also to their commerical interests, since creation and understanding of online communities is a bit of a thing. The exciting details of admins, RFC, Mediation and a deep understanding of the Arbcomm I leave to some other post.

The best bit was questions-and-wine afterwards, because the questions were very good, the most informed I’ve ever had. Many focussing on sea level rise (since we live in and near the fens) and one person in particualr thanking me for reassuring him that sea level rise wouldn’t be as big as he had been lead to believe elsehwhere.

Oh, and this is nice but not at all relevant:

Wild wiki excitement!

Wikipedia reached its one millionth article today, and I was there on IRC watching as it happened… although actually I’d popped into the kitchen to do the washing up at the crucial moment.

Predictably enough the millionth article itself is not very exciting: Jordanhill railway station.

My own minor attempt to get article 1M was to create Ray Bradley and Phil Jones. But was then astonished to find myself in a delete-undelete war over the RB entry, on the grounds that he wasn’t notable… unlike Jordanhill railway station. Sometimes wiki is a bit odd. To be fair, if you follow the RB link now its a better article than it was then. OTOH it may have been deleted again…