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WP prose praised, Public Policy update, education debate, WP documentary

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By S8333631 and Tilman Bayer

Praise for "efficient and impassioned" prose in Wikipedia and "revolutionary" WP:OWN policy

In her tech column for The New York Times Magazine ("What Wikipedia Is Best at Explaining"), Virginia Heffernan praised the "efficient and impassioned" prose in many of the WikiProject Video games' featured Articles, specifically Halo: Combat Evolved and Angry Birds. Interviewing one of the contributing Wikipedians, she learned about the policy against ownership of articles, calling it "revolutionary" and commenting:

She posited that in the digital age, the identity of an "object" is defined by its Wikipedia article, and compared the role of Wikipedians to that of taxonomists and explorers in earlier times:

Lastly, Heffernan called her readers to contribute to Wikipedia themselves.

Midterm update on the Public Policy Initiative

The UC Berkeley's "Politics of Piracy" class, participating in the Public Policy Initiative

The Wikimedia Foundation's Public Policy Initiative published a midterm update last week, reporting that the participating students were beginning to contribute articles to Wikipedia, a few of which had already been featured in the "Did You Know" (DYK) section on the main page. An Ambassador Steering Committee has been formed, "thinking through the big questions about the Ambassador program" (where experienced Wikipedians assist participating students). Five more courses have been added since the first announcement in August (Signpost coverage); two of them at the UC Berkeley, which announced in a press release that "UC Berkeley students help improve Wikipedia’s credibility".

The Public Policy Initiative was also covered in the NPR program All Things Considered ("Wikipedia Teams Up with Academia") and in The Chronicle of Higher Education's "Wired Campus" blog ("Professors Shore Up Wikipedia Entries on Public Policy").

Use of Wikipedia in education debated

Advice on "teaching Wikipedia", from Flickr user "The Daring Librarian" (Gwyneth A. Jones)

In related news, several comments on the use of Wikipedia in schools and universities were published recently.

The ZDNet Education blog asked "Teachers: Please stop prohibiting the use of Wikipedia".

The Cardinal Courier (a student newspaper at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, New York) argued that "Wikipedia is a reliable source to use for assignments". While acknowledging that Wikipedia's General disclaimer contains "capitalized letters saying, 'Wikipedia makes no guarantee of validity'", it noted that several reputed news publishers and reference works, such as The New York Times Company or the Oxford English Dictionary, make similar statements about their own reliability (possibly drawing from the list at Wikipedia:Non-Wikipedia disclaimers). Wikipedia's list of errors in the Encyclopædia Britannica that have been corrected in Wikipedia was also noted.

A "Reader's view" published in the Opinion section of the Duluth News Tribune found Wikipedia "more enlightening than unilateral spin", regarding it as "the best place to begin research if proper protocol is observed".

An article about the American Library Association's "Top 25 Websites for Teaching and Learning" list in the Chicago Tribune revealed that "Yes, students, there's a world beyond Wikipedia", observing that "for parents with fond memories of the Dewey Decimal System, library card catalogs and thumbing through their family's World Book Encyclopedia, it can come as a shock to discover that their own children's research habits often begin and end with a quick click on Wikipedia."

On her "The Daring Librarian" blog, US school librarian Gwyneth A. Jones said that "Wikipedia Is NOT Wicked!", defending Wikipedia against fellow educators who regard it "with suspicion, sometimes derision, and occasionally with fear". She named hashtags and QR code as topics where Wikipedia offered information superior to that in the research databases provided by her own library, and gave teachers some advice on how to teach Wikipedia in class – summarized in an "at a glance" cartoon (see illustration). Exemplifying her advice to "establish your web presence!" (and apparently unaware of Wikipedia's conflict of interest guideline), User:Thedaringlibrarian started the article about her employer, the Murray Hill Middle School.

"Truth in Numbers?" documentary about Wikipedia gains further attention

The documentary film Truth in Numbers? Everything, According to Wikipedia was reviewed by the AOL blog Urlesque, which also noted that it was "about to be deleted [from] Wikipedia itself" (the AfD message has since been removed). After its July premiere at Wikimania in Gdansk (see Signpost coverage), the film was released last month by a screening in New York City, and is set to be shown in more US theaters later this month. In some geographical regions, it has also been viewable online for free. Larry Sanger, who is featured in the movie, recently called it "not too bad, from what I saw", while Jimmy Wales recommended against featuring it as part of the upcoming 10 years of Wikipedia celebrations, because "the film was poorly received in Poland, and it is seriously out of date" (filming had started at the 2006 Wikimania; most of the footage seems to date from 2006 and 2007). Board member Samuel Klein (User:Sj), who had attended a panel discussion with the directors after the New York screening, said that he likes "the film a lot more after seeing it for the second time, in a very different audience (and seeing their live reactions)".


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(from the image) "Establish your web presence!" → If that is not a call for spamming and blatant paid editing, I don't know what is. –MuZemike 00:10, 9 November 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Yes and no—WP:COI does not absolutely prohibit people who know about a topic (such as a particular organization) from adding information about it to Wikipedia (nor should it). On the other hand, it is easy to cross the line into distorting the truth to serve interests, and we have to police the line. The realistic middle ground is that people should disclose if they have any interest in the organization (employee of a company, shareholder, member of a nonprofit association, whatever) and that they not turn into owners of the article, so that outside voices have equal weight in shaping the article. So I agree with you that we need to be vigilant to enforce "the right way to edit on a topic you're close to". But some Wikipedians twist that into "if you're not a complete outsider to that organization, then the very act of clicking the "edit" button is inherently an ethical violation." That doesn't reflect the actual WP:COI guideline. (MuZemike, this isn't a reply only to you specifically—I'm just talking about the whole range of interpretations of WP:COI that I sometimes see on talk pages around the encyclopedia.) — ¾-10 20:07, 9 November 2010 (UTC)[reply]


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