Friday, July 25, 2008
Google, being the smart world-dominating search engine that it is, has come up with a nifty business model to entice authors to contribute to Knol: if contributors "choose, [they can] have ads displayed through the Internet search leader's marketing system. The contributing author and Google will share any revenue generated from the ads, which are supposed to be related to the topic covered in the knol."
According to the report, Knol "has been widely viewed as the company's answer to Wikipedia", although reports from Google say it's supposed to "supplement" Wikipedia. And in true Wikipedia form, you can find the Wikipedia page on Google's Knol here.
Sadly yours truly was not on the original Knol invite list...Google must not know about my obssessive knowledge of colonial copyright...or The Dark Knight.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
On Tuesday, the New Zealand Police announced the launch of a new wiki as part of its current review into the 1958 Police Act. The aim of the wiki is to encourage individuals to make suggestions regarding this legislation. On the homepage for the wiki the situation is further explained and it is stated that, “[a]n official Bill is currently being written-up by parliamentary drafters, but in parallel there's an opportunity for others to suggest how a new Policing Act might look by contributing to a wiki Act. It'll be kept open until 1 November 2007, when the results can be fed back into the official law-making process.” So for those who feared that the new New Zealand Policing Act may have featured a few radical provisions (“Police will have no power to arrest individuals on Tuesdays”), it is obvious that the wiki will not be the be-all-end-all for the new Act.
Constituents in a variety of jurisdictions have often had the opportunity to comment on proposed laws, with various degrees of success. For example, in Australia, at a Federal level, a Bill can be released by the Attorney-General’s Department for public comment or a Parliamentary Committee may seek public submissions on issues raised in a Bill. Last year, in the case of the Copyright Amendment Act 2006 (Cth), the Attorney-General’s Department sought comment on the proposed technological protection measure provisions, while the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs conducted a broader inquiry into the overall Bill, prior to its being passed into law.
However, making a public submission to a Bill can be a difficult task. Individuals who have an interest in a Bill but who do not have expert qualifications may be deterred from voicing their opinion. Therefore, a wiki is a very democratic way of allowing individuals to contribute to both the text of laws and the governance of a country (according to a Sydney Morning Herald report on the wiki, NZ Police Superintendent Hamish McCardle has described it as a "new frontier of democracy.") While reading this story I thought back to the many seminal discussions on commons-based peer production by Yochai Benkler, particularly his 2006 book The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. I would suggest that what we are seeing in the New Zealand case is the creation of laws by commons-based peer production, albeit without the economic aspect of production.
Despite that, I’m still not convinced as to whether this represents the future of law-making, or its demise.
Hat Tip: Many thanks to my housemate Abi for bringing this story to my attention and her very apt title!
Thursday, August 30, 2007
I have to admit that I do tune in occasionally (no pun intended) and yesterday morning, having missed Oz Idol the night before, I checked the "Australian Idol 2007" Wikipedia page to see which singers had gone through. When I checked, only four names should have been listed - two guys, and two girls. However, 5 names were listed under the "Top 12 Finalists" category, even though only 4 names had officially been announced. The fifth name was Ben McKenzie, a 17 year old from the NSW Central Coast. However, later than day, the name had been removed from this page.
Today, however, the name is back - and Ben McKenzie is indeed an Australian Idol 2007 Top 12 finalist (I have checked this against a credible source: the official Australian Idol website). Is this a case of life (or, more specifically, reality TV) imitating Wikipedia? Or is it not only politicians who will stoop to editing Wikipedia pages, but Idol devotees as well?
Friday, August 24, 2007
Premier of NSW, Morris Iemma is also under fire after it was discovered that someone from within the NSW Premier's Department removed a reference to a controversial outburst made by Iemma in a media conference last year.
WikiScanner, which credits itself for "creating minor public relations disasters, one company at a time" has been utilised to spot some interesting 'salacious edits':
- A Dell employee insisting that visitors 'get an apple'.
- Someone from Pepsi removing the section on 'long term health effects' of Pepsi.
- Exxon underplaying the effects of its oil spill.
Wikiscanner is a searchable database linking anonymous edits on Wikipedia (where IP addresses are displayed in lieu of a username) to organisations with the associated IP address. Issues have been raised with the fact that it can't be evidenced that the IP was used with authorisation.
If you take a look at the Wikipedia entry for Wikiscanner you can see that no one is without safe (BBC reporting on edits, The Times then reporting on edits by BBC staff etc).
Wikiscanner brings an interesting layer of transparency to Wikipedia, and could be useful tool if the results it shows are reliable. Some organisations have already started banning employees from using Wikipedia (this deals with some of the more embarrassing edits). I suspect that others may start using other tools to ensure that edits can not be traced back to them - and continue whitewashing regardless.
Update: 'The best of recent edits' here.
(Pictured: "Wikipedian Protester", Randall Munroe - via his excellent webcomic xkcd, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 license)
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
An anonymous individual posted on Benoit’s Wikipedia page that he was replaced by another wrestler, Johnny Nitro, for a championship wrestling event as Benoit was unable to attend the event “due to personal issues, stemming from the death of his wife Nancy.” A Wikipedia moderator took the post down an hour later on the basis that the statement needed a reliable source. A second anonymous individual then added to the site that “several pro wrestling websites” attributed Benoit’s failure to attend the event to Nancy’s death. This second post was made by an individual in Australia. The second post was then removed by Wikipedia editors on the basis that “several pro wrestling websites” was not reliable. When it was revealed that Benoit, his wife and son had died, Wikipedia editors put the puzzle together and contacted authorities. (see the Sydney Morning Herald report here).
After revealing that they were responsible for the first post, the anonymous individual said that they had made the changes to Benoit’s Wikipedia page on the basis of a number of rumours floating around the Internet. Further, they stated that
"I posted the comment we are all talking about and I am here to explain that it
was A HUGE COINCIDENCE and nothing more…
I was beyond wrong for posting wrongful information, and I am sorry to everyone for this ... I just posted something that was at that time a piece of wrong unsourced information that is typical on wikipedia, as it is done all the time.” (Jano Gibson, “Benoit Mystery’s Wiki Twist: I Did It”, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 June 2007)
So does saying that “I just posted something that was at that time a piece of wrong unsourced information that is typical on Wikipedia, as it is done all the time” make it all right then? No, for a number of reasons. First, while editing Wikipedia has become all the rage, what is the rush in posting the death of an individual before it’s actually been confirmed? Even if this was based on ‘rumours’ – which in this case ended up being somewhat true – I’m not sure of the harm in waiting for a death to be confirmed by more reliable sources before adding it the Wikipedia page. After the Sinbad incident, chances are that Jimmy Wales wouldn’t mind Wikipedia not being updated for a few hours in order to confirm that an individual in question is actually deceased. Second, if the individual is not a prankster and does in fact care about the information on Wikipedia, then surely they should not base their posts on unsubstantiated rumours and seek to dispel the misconception that Wikipedia is the place you go to post inaccurate information.
It's a shame that in such tragic circumstances this is the story that is filling the headlines.
Friday, April 27, 2007
As you may remember from an earlier post, Jimmy Wales has this week been touring Australia and speaking at various capital cities (he was also here for our public holiday ANZAC Day - I wonder if he had to look up the Wikipedia page for it?) Yesterday, Wales spoke at the Hilton here in Sydney. And there he was confronted by Andrew Hansen from the Chaser, who had decided that Wales would be perfect for a Chaser segment called "Mr Ten Questions". Wales was asked ten questions in rapid succession, including such gems as "There are 1.7 million articles on Wikipedia; how long did it take you to write them all?" and "How do you feel about the fact that when I looked you up on Wikipedia this morning I changed your page to say that you were a teenage drug lord from Malaysia?"
In being asked the Ten Questions, Wales now joins an elite list, although only one of the Ten Question candidates has ever got all the answers right - actor Anthony LaPaglia.
You can read more at the Sydney Morning Herald article on this here. As the SMH points out, this is quite a minor stunt by the Chaser guys. As the Wikipedia page on The Chaser, these guys were on the official list of potential terrorists, anarchists and protestors "deemed to be a threat" to United States Vice President Dick Cheney on his recent visit to Australia. So it seems that Wales got through this easy!
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Wikipedia: Different aspects of Wikipedia are considered in three articles. Dennis Wilkinson and Bernando Huberman assess the value of cooperation in Wikipedia here; Anselm Spoerri has created a qualitative study on the 100 most visited Wikipedia pages between September 2006 - January 2007 here; and Spoerri also asks, in a separate article here, what is popular on Wikipedia and why?
Open Access/Content/Source: Four articles address different aspects of the "open" revolution. After my discussion last week on open source cinema (and Snakes on a Plane!) I found Stefan Gorling's article Open Source Athletes particularly interesting - see that here. Peter Kaufman looks at open content, education and videos here; Paul Stacey look at open educational resources in a global context here ; and finally, Anna Winterbottom and James North combine a lot of issues, discussing the creation of an open access African repository based on Web 2.0 principles here.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
The study examines random samples of Wikipedia articles and looks at the number and nature of sources available, open access references and open access potential. Willinsky suggests that "if Wikipedia were to form more of a public access point to this research and if public expectations around this “see for yourself” posture increases, then researchers and scholars may well have a greater incentive to make their published work open access."
Improving the authority of sources (or putting in sources in the first place) would clearly be a tremendous improvement to Wikipedia. Reinforcing the idea of Wikipedia as a portal to other sources provides even greater incentive for wiki editors to do this. Students and academics can not (or at least should not) cite Wikipedia, and yet, it is often be the first place many people look. It would be very useful if Wikipedia could reliably be used to locate relevant external authoritative literature.
"Wikipedia, in this way, can begin to act as more of a gateway to learning and knowledge, in addition to being a ready reference source. To further link these parallel ways of contributing to knowledge’s public sphere speaks to nothing less than the human right to know what is known. Finding ways of bringing these new approaches to knowledge into closer proximity and association can only strengthen and extend that commons in both its democratic and educational dimensions."
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Read more about about Citizendium in this guest post by Roger Clarke.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald covered the ongoing controversy of a former college student who posed on Wikipedia under the name of "Essjay" as a professor of theology. Further problems emerged when a "high-ranking member of the Wikipedia bureaucracy" (can we be more specific please?) vouched for "Essjay"'s false credentials. See it here.
I think it's safe to say that, of the commons and copyright-related content that we cover here at the House of Commons, Wikipedia attracts the most attention from the media and the general community. The Copyright Amendment Act held its own last year, but now that's passed and we're all too busy format-shifting CDs onto our iPods to pay it much attention anymore. Creative Commons appears every so often - however, you are much more likely to find criticisms of Creative Commons in academic journals and literature as opposed to the public, general media-based airings of the problems with Wikipedia.
Late last week, I was sent a link to another Herald piece, this one about the Associated Press banning stories on Paris Hilton, "barring any major events", which I guess means the usual trio of pregnancy, marriage, or, um, death. Perhaps here at the House of Commons we should impose the same ban on posts about Wikipedia for a while...barring the usual trio of potential plagarism, spoofs or new wikis of course.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
More details about the seminar available here.
Read more about the impending visit of Jimmy Wales in "Wikipedia founder to visit Australia".
Monday, March 05, 2007
One of these new pages is Conservapedia, which is getting a lot of coverage from both the media and my fellow bloggers (see Andres Guadamuz at Technollama's post here and Pete Black at Freedom to Differ here - both of these are worth a read). Conservapedia is, according to its founders, a "'much needed alternative to Wikipedia', which they say is 'increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American'." (From Bobbie Johnson's article here on the Sydney Morning Herald site). Conservapedia was created in November 2006 and today it boasts over 1 million page views.
Notable pages include its current "Most Viewed Entry": Examples of Bias in Wikipedia, where one example given is that Wikipedia uses British, rather than American, ways of spelling words. In my opinion, I don't think I ever noticed the way certain words were spelt on Wikipedia - as an Australian, we're used to seeing words spelt both ways (is it licence or license?) I just looked for "Colour" on Wikipedia and the page on colours - ie, red, purple, pink etc - is given the heading 'Color'. So it seems that not all Wikipedia pages adopt the British way of spelling. It’s also interesting to look at the Wikipedia page on Conservapedia – see it here – I get the feeling that the Wikipedia and Conservapedia pages on each other will just continue to grow.
While on the topic on other online, peer-produced encyclopedias, there is also Uncyclopedia, the "content-free" encyclopedia, although be warned that it's not for the easily offended. In that vein, I will not be linking to any of Uncyclopedia's pages. Still, it does provide a few giggles and is an excellent example of commons-based peer production - the hours that contributors have spent building up some of the pages is amazing. (There is some interesting coverage on Oscar Wilde - but in order to avoid any kind of legal liability or just a stern telling off from the Powers That Be I will not be linking to that site).
Aside from telling you about interesting pages, however, there is one interesting issue about these new sites. Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation Licence. Another wiki, CreationWiki, is also licensed under the GNU FDL. Uncyclopedia, though, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licence.
The differences in licences don't matter - I think it's great that everyone's getting into sharing content and licensing products of wikis. Conservapedia, however, does not appear to be licensed. In my opinion, this is something that should be re-thought - everyone knows the best way to get the word out there is licensing!
Thursday, January 25, 2007
On his blog, Jelliffe states:
"I think I’ll accept it: FUD enrages me and MS certainly are not hiring me to add any pro-MS FUD, just to correct any errors I see."
"Brooker said Microsoft had gotten nowhere in trying to flag the purported mistakes to Wikipedia's volunteer editors, so it sought an independent expert who could determine whether changes were necessary and enter them on Wikipedia." [SMH]
Microsoft paying an impartial expert to edit Wikipedia pages is ok because:
- Wikipedia has been the victim of quality issues for a while (see guest post by Roger Clarke). By paying impartial experts who would not normally invest much time editing Wikipedia, the quality of articles will also increase.
- Anyone can edit Wikipedia. Alterations that aren't impartial are swiftly rectified. Mechanisms are in place to ensure that articles remain neutral (kinda).
Microsoft paying an impartial expert to edit Wikipedia pages is not ok because:
- Their actions could set a precedent that leads to the exploitation of Wikipedia for commercial advantage.
- The perception of bias is almost as dangerous as actual bias.
- They upset the creators of Wikipedia :(
I am inclined to wait and see what happens before throwing up my arms in disgust.
In the meantime, enjoy the lovely cartoon from xkcd.
(Pictured: "The Problem with Wikipedia", Randall Munroe - via his excellent webcomic xkcd, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 license)
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
It's a given that any thesis on the commons has to mention Wikipedia, so I've been spending a lot of time there, too. So when UIP associate Roger Clarke sent through to us at the House of Commons an article asking whether 2007 was going to be the "year of the expert wiki", I had to take a look. Find it here.
The article's author, Nate Anderson, points out that there's been a lot of debate over the reliability of Wikipedia in recent months and two new projects, Citizendium and Scholarpedia, seek to combat any reliability controversy by using teams of experts to polish up content (although Citizendium is quick to state on it's main page that it's "expert-led", not "expert-only".) Some readers will be familiar with Roger Clarke's post on Citizendium vs. Wikipedia last year, and Larry Sanger's response. The main pages for both Citizendium and Scholarpedia are worth a look at and it becomes very apparent that there are some big differences between the two.
Anderson also briefly discusses WikiLeaks, which, if you are unfamiliar this wiki, aims to "develop an uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leasing and analysis." A brief read of the WikiLeaks front page shows that this group means business. The WikiLeaks group will probably be following the pending Electronic Frontier Foundation/Eli Lilly litigation. The EFF is currently defending the "First Amendment rights of a citizen-journalist" who linked from a wiki to internal Eli Lilly company documents concering a prescription drug. (See more here and Lessig's brief post here.)
Update: See the Freedom to Differ post about Wikiseek, a new search engine company, here. I can't keep track of all this wiki news...
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Jimmy Wales, founder of the Wikimedia Foundation (parent organisation of Wikipedia) has announced the next big thing to hit the wiki landscape. Openserving.com "extends the essence of the open source model-free software and content- to all aspects of web based computing."
The six pillars of OpenServing are:
"FREE software, FREE bandwidth, FREE storage, FREE computing power, FREE content over the Internet, and GIVING AWAY 100% of the ad inventory and revenue to bloggers and website owners who partner with Wikia" [Wikia press release].
The project may open the door for many more collaborative content projects, giving adminstrators of websites the opportunity to make money in the process.
“Social change has accelerated beyond the original Wikipedia concept of six years ago. People are rapidly adopting new conventions for working together to do great things, and Wikia is a major beneficiary of that trend. OpenServing is the next phase of this experiment. We don’t have all the business model answers, but we are confident – as we always have been – that the wisdom of our community will prevail” [Jimmy Wales, Wikia press release].
The project is an interesting nexus between open software and open content (as are the other wiki projects). I will be interested to see how this 'next level' wiki project unfolds and the resulting impact on the commons. At the very least it opens the door for a few more Star Wars, Star Trek and Doctor Who wikis to populate the World Wide Web. ..and that has to be a good thing...right?
(Pictured: "Wikifriends", Randall Munroe - via his excellent webcomic xkcd, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 license)
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Wikipedia is the most prominent of the new-age collaborative information sources. But even its champions acknowledge that there are challenges, and choices to be made.
Larry Sanger, one of Wikipedia's co-founders, has long been dissatisfied with some aspects of its management. He announced on 17 October 2006 his intention to spawn a fork, or republished version, of Wikipedia that is intended to progressively develop higher-quality, more reliable articles.
Sanger envisages the core difference about Citizendium as being a set of editors, with interleaved scope, who will take responsibility for approving articles and amendments to articles. There will be rules that are rather less loose than Wikipedia's (e.g. contributors must declare their 'real names' - whatever that means), 'constables' who will enforce the rules, and a process for appointing and controlling editors and constables. Sanger intends that the appointment process will have collaborative features, but the proposal at this stage is sketchy.
The essence of the debate is whether and how to quality-assure the content of collaborative information sources. The orthodoxy within the open movement is the 'many eyes' principle: errors will come to attention and be addressed, because of the sheer volume of people who are looking and who are empowered to do something about them. The risk of pollution is high, and anarchy looms; but believers say it can be avoided.
Some people are nervous about pollution and anarchy, and uncomfortable with constructive looseness. They prefer layers of controls, and trust in a few rather than trust in the 'great unwashed hordes'. They point to the increasing incidence of Wikipedia pages being frozen for short periods, to let tempers cool. (As this was being written, the Wikipedia entry for 'Wikipedia' was locked, with the explanation "Because of recent vandalism or other disruption, editing of this article by unregistered or newly registered users is currently disabled. Such users may discuss changes, request unprotection, or create an account.").
The distinctions between the two approaches might be seen this way:
|QA Principle||'Many eyes'||'A few good men'|
|QA Style||Open collaboration among many||An inner clique of guardians, possibly self-perpetuating|
|QA Process||Informal review, by genuine 'peers' as in 'equals'||Formal review, by an approved set of 'peers' as in 'peers of the realm'?|
|Editorial Style||Self-organising and/or Anarchic||Hierarchical command and control, but with a collaborative appointment process?|
There are many aspects of Citizendium that cast doubt on its ability to survive any longer than its predecessor Nupedia, let alone thrive. Will the elite few prove to be as energetic as the egalitarian hordes? Will the bureaucracy of editorial committees cause even the first few score pages to miss their window of opportunity? Will any of the pages ever score high enough on Google rankings to be noticed? Will the quality difference matter to people, or will the 'good enough' of Wikipedia trump the new approach, just as Microsoft's Encarta, by using some of Funk & Wagnall's middle-brow encyclopaedia, trumped Britannica? Will the inevitable re-branding as something trendier like 'Zendi' be enough to revive interest?
Ultimately, the community will vote with its feet, or consumers will determine what the market wants by paying with their clicks and eyeballs (choose your preferred metaphor). Perhaps the venture's greatest contribution will be to help us learn about quality assurance of open content.
[This was a guest post, written by Roger Clarke. It is available from Roger Clarke's website under either an AEShareNet licence or a Creative Commons licence. -- Ben]