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Free culture conference, "The Register" retracts accusations, students blog about Wikipedia, and more

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By Theo10011, Resident Mario, Tilman Bayer and AxelBoldt

Free Culture Research Conference

On October 8/9, the 3rd Free Culture Research Conference took place at the Free University of Berlin, Germany, with Wikimedia Deutschland as one of the supporting co-organizers. Several presentations featured Wikipedia and Wikimedia as important examples of free culture. A talk by Shun-Ling Chen examined collaborative authorship on Wikipedia and in indigenous music, arguing that neither is adequately covered by the joint authorship clause in current US copyright law.

A "Wikimedia Panel" (summary on the conference blog) focused on efforts in several countries to make government works available under a free license. The panel was moderated by Mathias Schindler from the German Wikimedia chapter, who has been involved in such efforts, including negotiations that resulted in a donation of around 100,000 images from the German Federal Archive (see Signpost coverage). At the panel, Tomer Ashur from Wikimedia Israel reported on the chapter's progress in lobbying for a law that would release government works under a free license that includes permission for commercial reuse (earlier Signpost coverage: Rumble in the Knesset, Israeli "Wikipedia bill"). He expressed cautious optimism that the chapter will be able to announce the passing of the law at Wikimania 2011 (which is to be held in Haifa, Israel).

A presentation by Leonhard Dobusch and Sigrid Quack compared the Wikimedia Foundation and Creative Commons regarding both organizations' relation to the corresponding informal community, and endeavors to internationalize their development – in the case of Wikimedia, with respect to the increasing number of chapters.

Wikipedia vandals and The Register mislead readers

On October 5, The Guardian reported that wrong information from the Wikipedia article about Norman Wisdom had made it into the actor's obituaries in several UK newspapers – the Daily Mirror, The Independent and The Guardian itself. The statement in question claimed that Wisdom co-wrote the World War II song (There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover; it appears to have first been added on August 24 by an anonymous editor, without a reference.

On the following day, British IT news website The Register, long known for its negative coverage of Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation, also reported on the incident ("The curse of Wikipedia strikes Norman Wisdom", WebCite archive: [1]), adding the claim that the wrong fact:

"was inserted not by a drive-by vandal, but by a Wikipedia Administrator – a high Operating Level Thetan in the Wikipedia bureaucracy. [... He] was making cosmetic changes to an earlier edit of his, but slipped in the bogus information without anybody noticing, on September 2nd."[2]

The article by "Register" author Andrew Orlowski included personal details and a photo of this admin. However, the diff he cited did not support the accusation, as it included several intermediate revisions. Orlowski's article was changed on the same day, in which the passage above became:

"Attempts to remove the factoid were made, but a Wikipedia Administrator – a high Operating Level Thetan in the Wikipedia bureaucracy – stepped in to preserve the bogus information."[3]

Both the admin's personal details and his photo remained.

Five days later, on October 11, The Register issued a correction, signed "Team Register", retracting both versions of the claim about the admin (which was removed from the original article, too):

"We accept that both of these statements are incorrect, and apologise for any inconvenience or embarrassment caused."

Students blog about Wikipedia

Students on the "Introduction to law and technology" course by Elizabeth Stark and Brad Rosen at Yale University have blogged about Wikipedia: "How Wikipedia will save politics", "Wikipedia: The next political battleground?", "Conservative collaboration and the Wikipedia model", "Two love letters to Wikipedia", "Are we wikiaddicts?", "Wikipedia: creating a generation of thinkers".

Also last week, nearly 60 students from Geert Lovink's "New Media Practices" course at the University of Amsterdam blogged about their experience writing a Wikipedia article, as part of their coursework. Lovink reports that "about half the students ran into trouble, either having their entry deleted or having to rename it, change topic and so on", and that "only 2 or 3 [of them] had ever edited a Wikipedia page" before [4].

Company sells 54,000 German Wikipedia article collections on Amazon

The German press recently reported on the print-on-demand publisher "Bucher Gruppe" (apparently the German arm of Books, LLC, using a mangled version of the German word Bücher, "books") which sells some 54,000 books on Amazon, all low-quality machine-created collections of articles from the German Wikipedia.

The books are usually just alphabetically ordered dumps of Wikipedia categories, with a machine-translated general introduction about Wikipedia and a machine-created index of poor quality, and without images.

The newspaper articles had been prompted by a web page by Andreas Weigel where he details his experience of buying a book from Amazon only to find that it contained six Wikipedia articles that he had written himself.

Süddeutsche Zeitung also reports that German, Swiss and Austrian scientific libraries have bought at least 417 books from Bucher Gruppe and related publishing houses.

See also Signpost coverage of similar publications in English: "Alphascript Publishing sells free articles as expensive books"


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Is it worth noting that the Register also included a photo of David Gerard in both incorrect versions of the Norman Wisdom article? Nathan T 13:30, 12 October 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Academic Plagiarism

The irony is that the 11 citations to the plagiarized research article contributes to the notability of the authors, under our fundamentally flawed WP:PROF guidelines, which equates citations with notability instead of biographical coverage. Gigs (talk) 15:36, 12 October 2010 (UTC)[reply]

as a rule, detected academic plagiarism at this level is rare and does greatly contribute to notability--if confirmed by the sort of unquestionably reliable sources necessary for negative BLP. Notability is not always positive. DGG ( talk ) 16:25, 12 October 2010 (UTC)[reply]
Although, do see this. ResMar 03:42, 13 October 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Book scam

Is anyone aware of any action by the Foundation to contact Amazon about this book scam? It seems to me that Amazon is making itself a party to this fraud (in the ethical sense, not the legal one) by selling these books.--Chaser (away) - talk 03:49, 14 November 2010 (UTC)[reply]


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