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Amazon "shopping-enabling" Wikipedia; Al Jazeera interview; be like Wikipedia

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By Aude, Tilman Bayer and Lumos3

Amazon adds "shopping-enabled" Wikipedia pages has begun showing copies of Wikipedia pages on its site, each labeled "Shopping-enabled Wikipedia Page". One example appears to be based on the October 23 version of the main page, with most or all links redirecting back to Wikipedia. In the James Joyce page, however, most or all links stay on, and pages about books such as the copy of Ulysses (novel) contain a "See Buying Info" button near the page title. According to CNET, Wikipedia pages will eventually appear in all Amazon search results, and link to mirrored Wikipedia articles containing embedded links with items for sale on Amazon. The mirror complies with Wikipedia's terms with "Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, version 3.0 or any later version" at the foot of each page. Amazon spokeswoman Anya Waring told CNET "As of November, we have rolled [the feature] out in the books category; however, [it] will be expanding to new categories in 2011.", Also at Zdnet

The Wikimedia Foundation's Deputy Director Erik Möller reacted to the news by stating: "We were not consulted, and are currently fully examining this. It is not official or endorsed by us". He later added:

Jimmy Wales interviewed by Al Jazeera

Last week, Jimmy Wales appeared from London on Al Jazeera's Morning Talk (حديث الصباح) program, giving a 19-minute interview (via a translator) with presenter Julnar Moussa (جلنار موسى). The interview was preceded by a two-minute clip that explained how Wikipedia works. Moussa gave congratulations for Wikipedia's 10th anniversary. Wales started off talking about how the Wikimedia Foundation is a non-profit charity, and the purpose of Wikipedia, as a free encyclopedia.

A major question discussed was "How do we assess reliability of the information?", both generally and when it comes to divisive and controversial topics, such as politics. Moussa cited the Jerusalem article where it says Jerusalem "is the capital of Israel, though not internationally recognized as such" as a specific example which she thought was biased towards the Israeli point-of-view. Wales explained how Wikipedia has the Neutral Point of View policy, that different points-of-view should be represented in an article, and that anyone can engage in discussion on the talk pages or get involved in editing. As for use by students, Wales explained that Wikipedia can be a starting-point for searching for information but not the end-point.

Moussa also asked "what about the other languages?" to which Jimmy Wales replied and explained Wikimedia's mission to provide free knowledge to all people in their own language. Wales discussed Wikimedia's interest in doing added outreach in the Middle East to bring in more editors to the Arabic Wikipedia. Replying to a question about WikiLeaks, Wales said there is no relation between them and Wikimedia. (Full interview on YouTube, posted on 25 November, Arabic-only)

"Why can't the rest of the Web be more like Wikipedia?"

On the Canadian "Search Engine" podcast, host Jesse Brown interviewed Joseph Reagle (author of the recent book on Wikipedia "Good Faith Collaboration"), asking him "Why can't we all be more like Wikipedia?". In the introduction to the 16-minute interview, Brown said: "Do you remember the time not so long ago, when Wikipedia was the punchline to many a bad late night talk show joke? ... An encyclopedia that anybody could alter at any time seemed ridiculous? ... You don't really hear those jokes a lot anymore. ... [Wikipedia] has been shown through a number of studies to be an incredibly accurate encyclopedia. For many of us, it is the de facto first stop for learning about something new. And the question these days about Wikipedia is no longer: 'How can that information be any good?', the question is: 'Why isn't the rest of the Internet more like that?' Apart from this question, Reagle was asked about topics from his book, explaining community norms such as neutral point of view and assume good faith, and about being harassed by members of Wikipedia Review (aggressive online comments which he explained by the endorsements his book had received from Sue Gardner and Jimmy Wales). Asked whether or not students should be allowed to cite Wikipedia, Reagle described a method he had used in his own courses, allowing students to cite from a set of Wikipedia articles that he had pre-vetted himself in specific versions. Coming back to the opening question, he cited from the concluding chapter of his book that there was no such thing as magic "wiki pixie dust" that would allow people to apply the wiki model to other arbitrary sites.


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Regarding the supposed "(aggressive online comments which he explained by the endorsements his book had reviewed from Sue Gardner and Jimmy Wales)", well, since I am often a critic, I realize my opinion will be discounted, but I contend this paraphrase (his or the Signpost authors) is a very distorted summary of the objections. Yes, there are people who will reflexively sneer anything favorable to Wikipedia, just like there are people who will reflexively cheer at anything favorable to Wikipedia. However, in my view, there were serious critiques made of Reagle's material, which were ignored "ad hominem". And noting the evident politics around his book should not be unspeakable. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 03:14, 7 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]

THough I'm not sure what precisely you have in mind, I would assume he had specific comments in mind (and I would not be surprised if there had been comments that indeed were ad hominem, most WIkipedia stuff tend to attract at least some). Circéus (talk) 04:24, 7 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]
Have you seen a review from someone at Wikipedia Review who actually read the whole book (instead of just the one online chapter)? There don't seem to be any. I guess that says something about the seriousness.
If you listen to the interview, Reagle acknowledges that "there are some honest, and I think perhaps good intentioned critics at Wikipedia Review but there is also a lot of nastiness". The latter can't be denied, consider just that Reagle found himself photoshopped together with lots of penises and subject to other abuse on the site.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 09:58, 7 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]
I think it can be reasonable to blog-comment and forum-discuss what he's put online, making clear the limits there. After all, that is what is available to the casual reader. While there are some fair objections to overreaching, there also seems to me an aspect of game-playing marginalization (as in, here's the online material for online reading, but someone has to go get and plow through the whole book before they can talk about the online material). I also think it's extremely reasonable to make comments along the lines of having sampled it, one isn't inclined to read further, because the sample indicates flaws because of the following reasons, etc. (i.e. not having to eat the whole apple to know it's rotten).
While I certainly wouldn't deny the existence of nastiness, I'm somewhat amused that your example is actually a case study of the problem of context. As I recall (I didn't re-read the thread), the "penises" bit was reference to the notorious Commons sexual material controversy, hence it wasn't the pure personal attack as might naively be thought. And if there isn't someone to point that out, it's easy to have a fit of the vapors and reach for the fainting-couch over the horrible, horrible, penises. I've seen things like this happen too many times in Wikipedia discussion, to quite detrimental effect. All of which gives a different view than Reagle's perspective. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 10:38, 7 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]

By the way, does anyone have any insights into one of the key exemplars of Wikipedia civility given in Reagle's book?

MattCrypto: Hi SlimVirgin, I don't like getting into conflict, particularly with things like block wars and protect wars, so I'm unhappy about this. . . .

SlimVirgin: I take your point, Matt, but I feel you ought to have discussed this with the blocking admin, rather than undoing the block. . . .

Kelly Martin commented in part on Reagle's blog (a comment which Reagle removed) "If the willful misinterpretation of the fairly transparently malicious conversation between MattCrypto and SlimVirgin that Joseph chooses to highlight there is typical of the analysis Joseph makes in this work, then it should indeed rise to stand as an exemplar of the sort of bankrupt scholarship that Wikipedia has come to be known for."

I found it hard to make out the politics - who is right? -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 03:34, 7 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]

I have to say Kelly Martin's comment utterly stump me too, but then I'm not familiar with her/their specific history in relation to SlimVirgin (which I assume is the one she is targetting specifically as the guilty party here). Circéus (talk) 04:24, 7 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]
I don't know about Kelly Martin's past fights and politics, but that particular criticism seems beside the point, as these quotes belong to a discussion of Wikipedia's norms in the first chapter, rather than Wikipedians' personal character. So even if one assumes (as Kelly Martin seems to do) that one or both participants are aggressive, malicious types who "fairly transparently" (to whom?) conceal their maliciousness, that would still demonstrate the power of these norms. Of course it would be naive to assume that one becomes magically transformed into a better human being just by contributing to a particular website. In the interview it is acknowledged that there are fights on Wikipedia, too, and that these norms sometimes break down.
Regards, HaeB (talk) 09:58, 7 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]
I think the point is being missed here. There's a big difference between collegiality and passive-aggressive, even if they might superficially look similar. To simplify for a brief comment, IF Reagle is presenting the latter as the former, it is indeed, in Kelly Martin's term, "bankrupt scholarship". Though I'm not clear yet myself who is in fact correct there. Let's not have the two-step of phrases that sound like broad reaching claims, but transform into trivialities when challenged. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 10:48, 7 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]
Responding to the general thread Seth Finkelstein started here, I'd like to respond with these points: (1) from the few times I've read threads at Wikipedia Review, the overwhelming impression I've had of its contributors (with a few exceptions) has been everyone agrees that people "shouldn't contribute or use Wikipedia, unless you want to contribute to the downfall of Western Civilization", & every time this a message repeated by a lot of people who were booted from Wikipedia for good reasons (POV-pushing, incivility, or other behavior commonly associated with being a jerk. (2) I don't know Kelly Martin's story (although I met her in person at Wikimania 2006), but I'd guess her caustic opinions about Wikipedia are symptoms due to her being another casualty of WikiBurnout, just as Larry Sanger is. (3) The barely managed competitive environment of Wikipedia results with a lot of people leaving the project with a lot of bitterness. (No, it's not slave labor here, just a fucking lack of appreciation for the contributions volunteers make. And after a while this lack of appreciation sucks people down.) If this happens to you, my suggestion is to make a clean break & walk away from Wikipedia. There's nothing to be gained by obsessing over what experienced at Wikipedia (you think things at Wikipedia suck? Have a look at "the best print Encyclopedia"); doing so will only darken your soul. (And mine might be almost black as I type this.) -- llywrch (talk) 22:53, 7 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]
1) For comparison, suppose I wrote something like the following - "The times I've participated in Wikipedia threads, the overwhelming impression I've had of its contributors (with a few exceptions) is Kool-Aid drunk cultists, and the propaganda is repeated by a lot of people making their living off Wikipedia somehow (speaking fees, corporate huckstering, public policy hackery)." There's a real difference of perspective sometimes. 2) Burnout doesn't automatically make one's analysis wrong. Sometimes it gives insight into a dysfunctional process. 3) Do you see a problem if evangelists are free to promote, but the disillusioned are recommended to be silent? (for their own psychological well-being, of course!). In fact, does that pattern remind you of anything? -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 02:56, 8 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]
(1) I should have finished my thought here: because of what I said, I don't read Wikipedia Review. Seth, you may do the same with Wikipedia because of your impression of the threads here. (Or not. I'm just not interested in finding the time to follow Wikipedia Review; I'm also not interested in making the time to follow many threads here on Wikipedia.) (2) You're right about burnout. However in many instances where I've read former Wikipedians who were in leadership roles criticize how things are, I'm not reading an insightful account of what is wrong, what I'm reading is what the burnout is saying. Those who leave Wikipedia due to burnout need to deal with that first -- for their own health & well-being -- before turning to criticizing Wikipedia. BTW, why do contributors to the literary quarterlies like Paris Review or Kenyon Review -- which pay as much for their work as Wikipedia does -- avoid the burnout Wikipedians often fall victim to? (I believe that that question can be answered without using words like "cult".) (3) Tens of thousands of teachers & professors tell their students not to use Wikipedia, but their students don't listen & still use Wikipedia for their research; what difference will one person's silence make? Besides, saying that Wikipedia is better than Encyclopedia Britannica isn't saying all that much: as Einbinder's book points out, Britannica set an embarrassingly low standard for anyone to exceed, & in the long run endorsing this doesn't say much for Wikipedia. So why don't you & other critics defining a new standard instead of arguing whether Britannica or World Book is truly better than Wikipedia? -- llywrch (talk) 20:51, 8 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]
Regarding "what the burnout is saying" - how do you know? It strikes me as a logical problem to require that critiques by those most disillusioned by Wikipedia must be accepted by those perhaps still heavily illusioned by Wikipedia. That sort of unreasoning is a very standard way for acolytes to dismiss valid but uncomfortable points made by apostates. Now, I'm hardly saying outsiders are automatically right. But do have some awareness of the near-paradox. And what difference does one person ever make about anything? That's the great quandary of activism. Regarding "defining standards", there's something a burden-of-proof issue. One of my critiques of Wikipedia is that such evaluation is prone to degenerate into cherry-picking, shifting goalposts, and other fallacies of a huckster sales-pitch. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 07:14, 10 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]

RE:Shopping Enabled Amazon pages/ads, their James Joyce page - This looks pretty much like what is envisioned in our free licensing, as long as they don't use Wikipedia trademarks (which they don't seem to). One question however. At the bottom they state "The Wikipedia content may be available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, version 3.0 ..." Shouldn't it refer to THEIR James Joyce page however, e.g. "This page is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, version 3.0 ..." I don't know what the practical difference would be; I mean who would want to copy the links to their shopping pages? Smallbones (talk) 16:23, 7 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Quite right: The content of must be released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. That is what "Share Alike" means. ~ Ningauble (talk) 16:06, 8 December 2010 (UTC)[reply]


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