News and notes
Picture process turmoil, block patterns, and more
Turmoil in the Featured and Valued picture processes
Dissatisfaction with elements of the Featured picture candidates (FPC) process escalated this week with a proposal to delete the entire Valued pictures (VP) project.
Beginning in mid-May, several regular participants at FPC began voicing concerns about the way some featured picture candidacies were closed. Although in principle anyone may close picture nominations after the standard voting period ends, in practice most closing is done by a handful of editors who take closing responsibilities upon themselves. Because of some unsatisfactory closing results for candidates that fell short of the required number of support votes but had few or no oppose votes and concerns that closers were using too much personal discretion in deciding results, some editors began boycotting FPC in late May. Overall participation slowed over the last two weeks—only ten pictures were promoted—while editors conducted a review of the closure process. Discussion continues on how to improve the closure process.
On 4 June, Durova nominated the relatively new Valued pictures process (active since December 2008) for deletion, arguing that it serves as "a ghetto to shunt highly encyclopedic material off the main page." Featured pictures are required to demonstrate both technical excellence and encyclopedic value (EV), while for Valued pictures high EV can make up for weaknesses in technical quality; the possibility of becoming a Valued picture is sometimes brought for featured picture candidates, especially for restorations of historical images that were created with older technologies. Durova also argues that "VP actually damages efforts to gain access to more and better source files", because the prospect of a day on Wikipedia's main page is a powerful incentive for cultural repositories to release high resolution images they possess. She expands her argument in a recent blog post, "Why featured pictures is ailing".
Block patterns on Wikipedia, Conservapedia graphed
Despite its much smaller article count and editor community, Conservapedia blocks more IP addresses than Wikipedia, according to analysis by an editor on RationalWiki (a site focused, in large part, on criticism and satire of Conservapedia). While Wikipedia administrators typically issue fine-grained blocks in large numbers, Conservapedia relies heavily on range blocks that affect tens of thousands of IP addresses at once. As a result, Conservapedia blocks almost three times the number of individual addresses that Wikipedia does: 19,763,767 vs. 7,082,293 as of the analysis in late May.
The results of the block analysis are presented visually on "maps of the Internet" inspired by the webcomic xkcd.
Google News results include Wikipedia articles
Google News and Google Alerts users have reported occasional links to Wikipedia articles as news results. In particular, the Air France Flight 447 article reportedly appeared on the Google News front page and in Google Alerts results. Wikipedia has become widely recognized as a useful source for overviews of rapidly developing stories, but it is unclear how Google comes to classify any particular article as news.
Wikizine is back
Wikizine, a venerable independent newsletter for Wikimedia projects, has returned after a long hiatus with two new issues in the last two weeks.
Researcher testing tweaks to interface
Social computing researcher Aaron Halfaker is testing a tool called the NICE gadget that tests a set of modifications to the undo interface to make Wikipedia a more friendly place for new editors. Halfaker is calling for editors to install the gadget, the purpose of which is "to investigate whether we can promote awareness and communication between editors through modification of the user interface."
- An artist has created a 5000 page hardbound print version of Wikipedia's featured articles. "Reproducing Wikipedia in a dysfunctional physical form helps to question its use as an internet resource."