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Fundraising banners continue to provoke; plagiarism charges against congressional climate change report

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By Lumos3, Tilman Bayer and Ohconfucius

Fundraiser coverage and parodies continue

See also The Signpost's full background report on the annual fundraiser: "November 15 launch, emphasis on banner optimization and community involvement"

The annual Wikimedia fundraiser reached slightly more than $5.5 million in donations to the Foundation on November 28, according to the official Fundraiser Statistics page – about a third of the $16 million target.

In the second week after the fundraiser's official launch on November 15, the graphic banners featuring Jimmy Wales (which had been proved to be most effective in testing) were still used in most of the ads, and continued to provoke amused and annoyed reactions in news and social media (cf. last week's "In the news"). (The banners can be removed temporarily by clicking the "X" on the top right corner, and permanently, for logged-in users, via a gadget in the preferences.)

Slate ("His Wikiness requests your money") asked: "Wales may be a founding father, but does he really deserve the Caribbean-island-dictator treatment? Apparently, his face has been scientifically proven to be an appealing fundraising icon, albeit against somewhat unimpressive competition." Pointing to other proposed banners featuring Wikipedia volunteers, Slate added that "now Wales has some more formidable competition from his own subjects."

The "Marketplace" radio program on American Public Media covered the fundraiser on November 25 ("The unpaid army behind Wikipedia"), commenting that it is "expected to last two months. Think about that the next time you're sore about a two week public radio drive!", and featuring a short interview with Joseph Reagle, author of the recent book "Good Faith Collaboration" (see Signpost review), on historical predecessors of Wikipedia, and issues such as notability and consensus decisions on Wikipedia.

In the introduction to another, longer interview with Reagle (see below), Harvard University's Berkman Center observed that

A posting on the blog of the "Critical Point of View" Wikipedia research initiative (see also this week's interview) asked "why they need so much cash", rather inaccurately claiming that "only a slim 23 [employees] are actually on [Wikipedia's] books" and that "travel expenses make up a large part of the operating expenses".

Numerous parodies of the banners continued to appear. Several media outlets reported a spoof of "the whole unintentionally hilarious Wikipedia donation thing" (TechCrunch) on 4chan by that site's founder, m00t (Christopher Poole), linking to a picture of a kitten instead of an appeal (as reported by Erictric). A Westword blogger applauded the "trolling": "if there ever was a self-serious banner that needed spoofing, it was Wales's". "Spreeblick" (one of the most widely read German blogs) posted a "personal appeal from Spreeblick founder Johnny Haeusler", a sentence-by-sentence parody of the German translation of Jimmy Wales' appeal, complete with Haeusler photoshopped into one of the Wikimedia banners. A dance/rap version of Wales' appeal has appeared on YouTube, with the artist questioning the need for donations: "Just get AdSense, Jimmy, you know? Like the rest of the Internet!" And every page on Uncyclopedia is currently displaying one of several parody banners featuring Jimmy Wales. The "Techerator" blog explained that Wikipedia "needs a decent amount of cash to stay free", and called the appeal "a very genuine and valid call to action for donations", but commented that "Jimmy Wales really offered himself up for the internet’s endless humor with this latest marketing move", offering a few more photoshopped images and sarcastic tweets as examples.

AOL's "Urlesque" blog juxtaposed one of the banners with the article staring contest, and asked "is Jimmy Wales staring at you just creepy, or does it actually make people want to give more money to Wikipedia? Turns out the Staring Jimmy ads work", linking the Foundation's banner testing results.

As reported in the last "In the news", an unofficial browser extension for Google Chrome (available here) displays a Wikipedia fundraising banner featuring Jimmy Wales on every webpage accessed. It received further media coverage last week, with PC World India suggesting it might be added to public computers, like a college lab PC. Another Google Chrome extension took a converse approach, promising to replace Jimmy Wales' photo with that of a kitten on each Wikipedia page.

A blogger from the Colorado Springs Independent defended the banners against the mockery: "Make fun of Jimmy Wales' ubiquitous puss all you want ... but that doesn't diminish the effectiveness of the Wikipedia co-founder's ever-so-slightly narcissistic fundraising campaign."

Report on climate change for the U.S. Congress plagiarised Wikipedia and other sources

An academic investigation has found that some uncredited passages in an influential report for the U.S. Congress that questioned the validity of climate change research appear to have been plagiarised from Wikipedia (including the articles social network and Dansgaard-Oeschger event) and textbooks. The Wegman report had been commissioned in 2006 by Joe Barton and Ed Whitfield, Republican members of the US House of Representatives energy and commerce committee, and was written by statisticians Edward Wegman, David Scott and Yasmin Said of George Mason University. It was found to have passages so similar to work by Professor Raymond S. Bradley, a climate scientist, and to entries on Wikipedia, that it constitutes plagiarism. USA Today, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Salon

At least in one case, the Wikipedia plagiarism allegations had already been made in April on the Deep Climate blog, which called Wikipedia "the favourite source of scholars in a hurry", and has provided a detailed side-by-side comparison of a passage in the Wegman report with the Wikipedia article Social network, in its 12:21, 2 January 2006 version. (The report had examined the social network of authors that had collaborated with one particular climate scientist, alleging the possibility of an old boy network.) Deep Climate noted that while Wegman et al. appeared to have changed a few words from the Wikipedia original, "the changes don't even make sense". The plagiarism appears to have extended to a subsequent paper by Said and others, where Deep Climate sarcastically described a passage matching the Wikipedia article as a "return to the safe ground of Wikipedia" after criticizing the preceding paragraph for "rampant confusion" and bad English.

In USA Today, Wegman, who is currently under investigation from George Mason University, defended himself against the allegations, stating that the report was never "intended to take intellectual credit for any aspect of paleoclimate reconstruction science or for any original research aspect of social network analysis", but that the authors had felt "some pressure" from the House committee to complete the report "faster than we might like".


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"graphic banners featuring Jimmy Wales (which had been proved to be most effective in testing)"[citation needed] --Orange Mike | Talk 21:07, 29 November 2010 (UTC)[reply]

I'd just like to find out who came up with the idea of being able turn those banners off in preferences. I'd pat them on the back for a job well done. :) Rockfang (talk) 00:31, 30 November 2010 (UTC)[reply]
Mike, see meta:Fundraising 2010/Banner testing. It was the definitive winner. /ƒETCHCOMMS/ 01:43, 30 November 2010 (UTC)[reply]
Fetchy, there's a nice little blog article where it shows that the statistics for the Jimmy banner are a bit skewed. I'm currently looking for it, but I remember sending a link to James about it (I believe James put together the stats). Killiondude (talk) 05:56, 30 November 2010 (UTC)[reply]
Meh, can't seem to find it. Maybe James has logs or something. Killiondude (talk) 08:11, 30 November 2010 (UTC)[reply]
...and that page was already linked in the article (see "the Foundation's banner testing results" in the paragraph about AOL Urlesque), as well as in the Signpost background article linked at the top.
However, it does not appear to contain all the testing results (only mentions tests conducted before the fundraiser started, and none testing personal appeals from community members). According to the banner history page and recent updates from the fundraising staff (as well as earlier comments by Philippe in the media, see last week's Signpost), a banner featuring the appeal by Kartika was tested several times on US readers, and performed well, although I can't find a page giving actual testing results (wmf:Special:ContributionTrackingStatistics seems to be intended to provide that kind of information, but it appears to be malfunctioning at the moment).
Regards, HaeB (talk) 11:50, 30 November 2010 (UTC)[reply]

I don't think the novel is automatically CC BY-SA, even when it would have included bits of Wikipedia. I can't remember the exact phrasing CC BY-SA uses, but GNU GPL (another copyleft license) basically has the statement "if you don't agree with the license, then you can ignore it, but your rights are then outlined in the standard copyright law". The author of the novel chose to ignore CC BY-SA, and chose not to apply it to the work. In that case, it is then up to the authors of the Wikipedia passages and the author in question to find an agreement that satisfies both parties (for example, relicensing the book), or the author has to remove those passages and cease distributing them in a manner that violates CC BY-SA. Copyleft licenses are "viral" because people consciously make note that they're obligated, by the license terms, to apply them in the derivative works. It doesn't work automatically. --wwwwolf (barks/growls) 21:25, 2 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]

...and an addition: Since this issue also touches fair-use and excerpting, that's actually a good example of people ignoring the license and letting the thing revert to standard copyright law. If you're just taking a small quote of text out of Wikipedia, you're usually ignoring the CC license and exercising the fair-use power granted by the copyright law. Nobody is crying bloody murder over short, attributed Wikipedia quotes - and nobody should. --wwwwolf (barks/growls) 21:33, 2 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]


  • Regarding the Houellebecq controversy: that's certainly a bold claim! I'm not too wise on copyright law, but does Gallaire have anything even close to a valid claim on the licensig of teh book because it ripped Wikipedia? bahamut0013wordsdeeds 19:43, 5 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]


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