In the news

In the news: Wikipedia serves as supplement to science, BBC

Wikipedia enhances scientific journalism

Wikipedia and other online encyclopaedias are supplementing and enhancing science journalism, according to a report in German magazine Heise Online this week [1]. The paper reported on a talk given by Wolf-Andreas Liebert, a professor of linguistics at the Institute of German Studies at the University of Koblenz-Landau, in which he noted that mainstream science journalism is "increasingly hemmed in by commercial constraints", of which Wikipedia remains free.

In a demonstration of the success of Wikipedia's neutral point of view policy, the professor said that Wikipedia's scientific articles showed the "discussion-bolstered character of science", while traditional science reporting tended to show science as a "uniform system generating truth". The fact that both experts and laymen were free to edit articles reinforced Wikipedia's ability to highlight a variety of positions, he said.

The professor's main criticism of Wikipedia was its lack of uniform quality assurance, and Liebert said that "very high quality articles rub shoulders with poorly written ones". He speculated that in the future, the self-organisational wiki model might give way to working with professional authors to hone content.

Wikified BBC News

Internet entrepreneur Stefan Magdalinski has recently created a wikified version of the BBC News website. The service, called Wikiproxy, takes BBC news content and links to the Wikipedia entries of proper nouns. Policy on the BBC's website is not to include any links within articles, although they often provide links to Wikipedia articles in an 'external links' section. The Wikiproxy site is described here, and was created by Magdalinski in cooperation with the BBC.

Magdalinski's project was described at Wired News, in an article looking at various moves towards openness and reusability by the BBC [2]. Projects like Wikiproxy have now been facilitated by the launch of the beta version of Backstage, which provides BBC content for people to build on [3] (The Backstage website, incidentally, recommends Wikipedia's entry on intellectual property for a primer on the subject).

Another free content BBC innovation is the Creative Archive, in which digital content is released under a copyleft license similar to the Creative Commons nc-by-sa license. This allows users to freely copy, redistribute and build upon content, as long as they credit the original author and release their work under the same license, but forbids commercial use.

Envy encourages work on Singaporean articles

The Straits Times this week reported on the activities of Singaporean Wikipedians who want to ensure that their towns have respectable entries in Wikipedia [4]. Demonstrating the phenomenon known as keeping up with the Joneses, editor Faith Toh declared that she "seethes with jealousy" when she sees that nearby Sengkang has a more expansive article than her home town of Punggol.

Toh says that she has now made it her "personal mission" to ensure that Punggol gets a "lengthy, updated entry" in Wikipedia, although she does not know when this "mammoth task" will be completed. The news article claims that Toh has even created a category for Punggol, although this appears not to be the case just yet.

Citations this week

Among the diverse and varied publications using Wikipedia articles as source material this week are: Illinois newspaper the Marion Daily Republican discussing rednecks with help from our article [5]; the Malaysia Star quoting from Eurovision Song Contest in an article on Europe's slightly embarrassing premier music event [6]; the Pittsburg Post-Gazette in an article on the hundreds of thousands of people across the Commonwealth now giving their religion as Jedi on census forms [7]; and the Global Politician quoting Wikipedia's work on cannibalism in an article on the long history of humans eating each other [8].


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