In the news
Confusion about Wikileaks continues, Wikipedia vs. Britannica in India, and more
Wikileaks fallout continues
Last week, the ongoing United States diplomatic cables leak by WikiLeaks continued to have side effects on Wikipedia – as in the cases reported in the last Signpost issue (Repercussions of the WikiLeaks cable leak).
On December 9, the Wikimedia Foundation addressed the widespread confusion between Wikipedia and Wikileaks in a statement on its official blog, adding to earlier statements by Jimmy Wales, Sue Gardner, and Jay Walsh in the media.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy condemned Wikipedia's "irresponsibility" during a November 30 meeting of the Council of Ministers, confusing it with WikiLeaks, as reported by Le Canard enchaîné (English summary). In a video published last week, a "reporter" asked eight members of the Assemblée nationale: "Do you, like Nicolas Sarkozy, condemn the responsibility of Wikipedia?", revealing similar confusion in some of them (UMP deputy Michel Voisin replied "Absolutely, yes!").
According to CNN, the judge in a media-overwhelmed hearing at London's Westminster Magistrates Court on December 7 about the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange once confused WikiLeaks and Wikipedia, too, "setting off a few snickers from reporters".
Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad even managed to put Wikipedia in the headline of a December 9 article about some of the WikiLeaks cables (since corrected).
According to Media Matters, a comment by right-wing US radio host Michael Savage "weaves Wikipedia, Wikileaks, and the Bilderberg group into one bunk conspiracy theory". Savage said:
- "Of course there's only one story, and that is the story of the subversion, the terrorism of the Wikileaks and Wikipedia folks. Now, I say that because I believe there is a link between the two, although I cannot prove it, nor am I making such an allegation. I believe that both organizations should be investigated to the full extent of the law."
Similar to the case of Glenn Beck, summarized in last week's Signpost, Media Matters explained that Savage "ignored the fact that the MediaWiki software both WikiLeaks and Wikipedia use is free and available to anyone who wants it".
Wikipedian Witty lama reported having been "grilled" by Australian immigration authorities about the relation between Wikipedia and WikiLeaks.
According to JzG, the Volunteer Response Team was getting "maybe a few tens of emails about this per day" last week. At the time of writing, it was still being debated whether a clarifying remark should be put into the Sitenotice (which displays on every Wikipedia page).
On December 7, the BBC quoted Wales as saying that "We try to tell people we have nothing to do with Wikileaks everyday", and with statements about the fact that some Wikileaks domain names are still registered to Wales' company Wikia: Similar to his earlier explanations of the issue (cf. WP:WIKILEAKS), Wales stated that "When Wikileaks first started they issued a press release describing themselves as 'the Wikipedia of secrets'" and to protect the name, several domains were registered by Wikia, "which were sold to Wikileaks a few years later". But according to Wales, Wikileaks never completed the transfer, even though "we've been bugging them to do it since they hit the news". In a response on his Wikipedia user talk page on the next day, Wales added that at the time of WikiLeaks' launch "we had no idea who they were, whether it was a scam or spam or who knows what, so some domain names were registered defensively. We contacted them immediately to see what was going on and they apologized for being careless with the Wikipedia name and everything was sorted right away with no problems... except for them actually concluding the technical aspects of the transfer". Also on December 8, The Guardian erroneously claimed that "the domain name wikileaks.com is owned by Wikipedia", a statement that was updated soon by a correction from Wikimedia spokesperson Jay Walsh, and a quote from the BBC article. Despite the stalled transfer, the actual WikiLeaks site had been accessible through the Wikia-owned domains earlier, without Wikia actually serving the content, as explained by Wales in October: "The CNAME records in DNS direct the traffic to www.wikileaks.org". However, as observed by "Elliot's blog", the content of Wikileaks.com recently changed to a GoDaddy parking page and then to a "not available" message.
List deletion debate covered
The technology blog ReadWriteWeb discussed the deletion of a Wikipedia page listing WikiLeaks mirror sites, giving both sides of the argument and mentioning the policy that "Wikipedia is not a mirror or repository of links." It cited Wikimedia spokesperson Moka Pantages, who explained the deletion by comparing it to a recent, similar one of the "List of active drive-in theaters": "People editing Wikipedia have nothing against drive-in theaters, of course, it's just that lists like these don't belong on Wikipedia." The RWW article was linked on Twitter by both WikiLeaks and an account associated with Operation Payback. The deletion was also covered by Spanish news agency EFE and the blog Erictric.
Britannica vs. Wikipedia race to India?
An article titled "Britannica to give Wikipedia a run for its money" in the Indian newspaper Business Standard has reported that 10 million subscribers to the broadband provider Airtel will be offered free access for up to two years to the online version of Encyclopaedia Britannica. In addition, Britannica currently "has access to about 3,000 schools and plans to expand to about 15,000 schools over the next three years." However, the company's president Jorge Cauz said that it has no plans in the near future to target the country's almost 700 million mobile phone users specifically. (Mani Pande, Senior Research Analyst in the Wikimedia Foundation's Global Development department, recently prepared a mobile forecast for India on the Foundation's Strategic Planning wiki which concluded that "it is important for Wikimedia to develop and support mobile versions of English and Indic language Wikipedia sites".)
In related news, MiD DAY published a short Q&A with the Foundation's Deputy Director Erik Möller, who is currently in India on "a fact-finding trip where the goal is to help the local community grow" with Chief Technical Officer Danese Cooper ("Loads of potential in India: Wikipedia"). They are attending Wikipedia meetups in Mumbai, Pune (with a separate tech meetup involving a Red Hat i18n team) and Bangalore. Möller is to give a talk at Symbiosis International University in Pune, and Cooper will give a keynote, "The technology of Wikipedia", at the FOSS.IN conference in Bangalore. The location of the Foundation's planned India office has not yet been decided.
- Analysis finds hierarchy in Wikipedia: International Science Grid This Week published early results of a Purdue University research group headed by Sorin Adam Matei concerning Wikipedia. Matei's group studied page revisions between 2001 and 2008 and found that hierarchies of editors have emerged. Matei suggests that the emergence of "specific voices" in an otherwise democratic environment is necessary for the success of the project.
- Letter in Nature calls scientists to contribute to Wikipedia: Last week's issue of Nature contained a correspondence by Alex Bateman and Darren W. Logan from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, encouraging fellow scientists to contribute to Wikipedia ("Time to underpin Wikipedia wisdom" – NB: only about 140 of 210 words of the text are available freely, but Nature offers non-subscribers the option to read the remainder for a US$18 fee). Similarly as in the article "Ten simple rules for editing Wikipedia" that they co-authored for the September issue of the journal PLoS Computational Biology, Bateman and Logan observed that "Wikipedia's user-friendly global reach offers an unprecedented opportunity for public engagement with science." They concluded by stating that "For society's sake, scientists must overcome their reluctance to embrace this resource."
- Lawsuit to "urge Wiki to post my side" in drug conviction: On Saturday, the website Cryptome released what it describes as court documents of a complaint "against WIKILEAKS.ORG and/or WIKIPEDIA.ORG" by D.L., an inmate of the US Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute (representing himself in the case). Filed last month at the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, the document is titled "Motion for injunctive relief ordering Wiki.org to post my side of the story on Operation Web Trypt [sic]" and according to Cryptome, "the purpose of this suit is to get Wikipedia or Wikileaks to publish a medical report [D.L.] believes will exonerate him." (In the Drug Enforcement Administration's 2004 Operation Web Tryp, several individuals had been arrested for selling grey market drugs over the Internet, and L. was later convicted in connection with a death that the DEA said had been related to these drugs.) The plaintiff said, "I do not know if the two named defendants are related in any way. The goal of this action is to post my side of the story about an entry online under the title of Operation Web Trypt [sic]". The suit does not appear to be related to an existing content dispute on Wikipedia – the article does not mention L. and its version history does not show attempts to add such content – but rather seems to be based on a desire to use Wikipedia's good reputation to counter "biased DEA press releases", by posting "online a brief entry in accord with the style of Wiki entries, which has a mission of high reliability information". The plaintiff explained that "no service of process has been served because I cannot find any way to do so with Wiki.org [sic]. I have contacted email@example.com [sic] and after being put-off tried to convey in a friendly way I would see them in court."
- Convict released because of suspected Wikipedia use by jury: The Orlando Sentinel reports that a police officer who had been convicted of sexual assault by a Florida court was released on bond soon afterwards, because of possible jury misconduct involving Wikipedia: "After the verdict was read Thursday, a courtroom clerk checked the jury room and found printouts about sexual assault and 'rape trauma syndrome' downloaded from the website Wikipedia. The printouts were not part of the evidence presented at trial." The jurors had been instructed not to do investigations of their own.
- Sue Gardner portrayed: The Wikimedia Foundation's Executive Director Sue Gardner was interviewed by the Financial Post Magazine last week, covering among other subjects her own Wikipedia edits (she began writing an article about Feminism in Sweden, but has so far been too busy to finish and upload it), the Foundation trying four different kinds of income – a small number of very wealthy donors, grants from institutions, generating own revenue, or "mini-donations from small donors", which the WMF eventually settled on, and using Linux on her laptop "to dive into the lifestyle and open-source ideology that forms the very foundation of the Wikipedia community".
- Student newspaper urges readers to donate: Student newspaper The Observer has urged readers to donate to Wikipedia. The article "The genius of Wikipedia" said that "In its infancy, Wikipedia was often maligned as suspicious and untrustworthy. However, it is increasingly hard to deny its supremacy as a knowledge source." The author compared Wikipedia favorably to Facebook Questions: "If you've casually taken a look at the responses to any such questions (which range from 'Will Miami win the NBA title?' to 'Will photon entanglement drastically change the world in the next 10 years?'), you'll see that most answers are usually about seven paragraphs (six meaningless) written by a grad student at Cal Tech or Stanford, and a couple are one-liners trying to be funny. ... Wikipedia is the exact opposite – it has a basic structure that avoids the 'death by lists' of either Google or Facebook Questions. It is neatly divided into sections, and most importantly, people can edit the work of others. ... Falsehoods are quickly deleted."
- Australian news site explains Wikimedia fundraising: A recent News.com.au article entitled "Jimmy Wales wants you to help support Wikipedia, and here's why you should" explains the ongoing fundraiser and its impact in Australia, noting that "its goal is to make sure that when you search for something about Australia on the web – information, photos, whatever – you get it, without having to pay". Conveniently enough, the article is accompanied by a poll entitled "Whose face are you most sick of seeing?" Answer choices: "Jimmy Wales, Julian Assange, [or] Oprah Winfrey".
- Students using Wikipedia – oceanography and a turning tide: The Associated Press reported that students at the University of Rhode Island have been improving Wikipedia articles in the field of biological oceanography (example), or starting new ones, as part of a course by professor Susanne Menden-Deuer. A blog posting of Square crop, a North American company, was "seeing signs that the tide may be turning. Schools are realising that instead of fighting Wikipedia, they could be using their resources to make it even better", quoting as examples the Foundation's Public Policy Initiative and Wikipedia Student Clubs.
- Wikipedia files: Chicago public radio station WBEZ continued their "Wikipedia files" series – video interviews in which celebrities comment on the Wikipedia article about them – with Jon Wurster, humorist and drummer of the indie rock band Superchunk.
- News anchor complains about his Wikipedia bio: American ABC news anchor and former Supreme Court correspondent Terry Moran complained on TVNewser (part of Mediabistro.com), about a wrong birth year in his biography on Wikipedia. He puts this and other inaccuracies down to mischief by his nephews and nieces and his own lack of interest in correcting them. He concludes "The lesson is not to rely heavily on Wikipedia". In the offending version, the wrong birth year was sourced to a set of bio briefs (WebCite) of Nightline anchors, written by About.com Guide Thomas Tennant. The self-description of the Wikipedian who last added it to the Wikipedia article does not indicate a family relationship to Moran.