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Egyptian revolution and Wikimania 2008; Jimmy Wales' move to the UK; Africa and systemic bias; brief news

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By Tilman Bayer
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  • I do think Africa is one of the places where our coverage is indeed lacking, which is something that has been pointed out multiple times in the past few years. The issue does fall down to sources, which is where problems come in when you're talking about places that doesn't have as much extensive coverage as the west does. For example, a while back I was involved in an AfD on this article. After a little bit of searching, I discovered that he was one of the Great Six male leads in Nigerian film, each of which should almost certainly have an article on Wikipedia. However, the sources are still difficult to find, even for important people such as this. So, what's the best method in such a situation? SilverserenC 23:36, 22 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]
    Some thoughts:
    1. We can improve the way we invite people to share information about their own projects or organizations -- that is one obvious place to start -- we should actively encourage people to post links to external sources, including their own organization or film's website, and should help them find other editors to craft the text of an article.
    2. We can mine industry-standard databases for background information on what coverage we are missing. (Rather than challenging editors to defend the notability of subjects, we can make lists of topics we know are notable by our own standards but don't have articles.) We should reach out to third parties that track information about, say, Nigerian film stars, or major corporations on the global stock market; they are a bedrock on which articles can be built. However the people who work with that data may have little overlap with those interestedin writing narrative articles. So we should devise ways for people to share sources and basic information before anyone has formulated an argument about notability that satisfies our in-house deletionists.
    3. We can support slow article creation -- this may be the best and most lasting change we could make. For instance:
      • Allow the growth of talk-pages about articles that are not yet complete or notable. Today there is no clear way to slowly gather sources about a subject over time -- if you try to add material to the talk page of an article that has not yet been created, it will be speedily deleted (an unfortunate misinterpretation of G8). No other solution lets two people who don't know one another find eachother's draft work on a new article.
      • Give new articles a week to develop. First-effort drafts in article space are often made by people who have direct access to many sources (including paper sources). Right now they are usually swiftly deleted, rather than massaged into good articles. Instead, we could start recognizing the work of article-massagers (currently a thankless task, though "save articles for deletion" projects are occasionally popular). We can devise tools that monitor pages that are exactly 7 days old rather than the ones that monitor new pages, only deleting new pages for obvious spam or vandalism. We can use pure wiki deletion rather than hard deletion, to allow future editors to build on what has been tried before. And we can design more safe spaces for new editors to get help without trout-slaps... SJ+ 01:49, 23 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]
I'm sorry, but you're not familiar with Wikipedia:Notability. Africa is just not notable! (Asia is also not important, apart from Japan, which has Pokemon). The Deletionists are right - Wikipedia already has too many articles about non-notable subjects, like Africans. Delete new Africa articles on sight!! (talk) 21:41, 26 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Regarding "the article reported claims by unnamed critics that [ Wikia ] "in effect piggybacks on the reputation built up by the legions of unpaid contributors to the encyclopedia, and thus ruthlessly exploits them" - hey, I resemble that remark :-). But the snippet garbles the point that Wikia is intended to "take the success -- and, indeed, the underlying philosophy -- of Wikipedia," and "commercialize the hell out of it", phrases which come straight from a Trader Monthly interview on this topic, so are not easily dismissed. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 07:17, 23 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]

We all give permission for our work on this project to be exploited, even commercialized. I'm cool with it, even though I don't particularly care for Wikia. Ntsimp (talk) 18:24, 23 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Well, I'm not sure this is the place for a long debate on the topic, but legal isn't the same as laudable. To give an example, sweatshop labor is in some sense voluntary, but it's still typically exploitative. Or note the analysis of "No One Makes You Shop at Wal-Mart". There's a deep critique here that's often missed if one reduces considerations down to minimal aspects like permission or legality. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 02:01, 24 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I think the Africa problem is really a conjunction of two separate problems;

  1. The interests of the people who edit wikipedia (ie. the "Why do we have better coverage of Pokemon than of Persian history?" problem). The Wikipedian community is still dominated by affluent anglophones in the Western world; with fewer editors in/from Africa there will naturally be less (but not zero) attention paid to such articles. Can we change that? How?
  2. The availability of sources; we have a bit of a FUTON bias - a document on a shelf in Africa is far, far less likely to be referenced than something which is easily googled, and a lot of interesting African subjects have little reliable documentation online. Apart from the technical capacity issues in developing countries, the language barrier cuts both ways; somebody who does not speak one of the more common global languages may be less likely to engage with the internet, and even if they do put information up there, the average wikipedian is less likely to understand what they've written. bobrayner (talk) 16:12, 24 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Here's a rule - if something appears in the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, it's notable. If it doesn't, it isn't. Sorry Africans!

Oh wait, we already have that rule. Delete new articles about Africa on sight! (talk) 21:36, 26 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]

A very short open letter to The Equinox and other media

If you don't understand how Wikipedia works, either learn, or don't write about it.

In almost every other subject this is an accepted norm. If you don't understand how the (electoral college/cooking/the human body/etc.) works, either learn, or don't write about it. For some reason though, everyone from school newspapers all the way up through top tier national or international daily papers seem to ignore this common sense guideline when it comes to Wikipedia. The number of reports that inaccurately depict how Wikipedia works is substantial, and is one of the core reasons why academics and the public at large are so conflicted on Wikipedia.

Also, not getting facts wrong in your reporting is generally just considered good practice in journalism.

Now there are a number of ways to avoid such mistakes. First of all you could join in as an editor, spend some of your time working on articles and getting the Wikipedian experience firsthand. Secondly, you could send an email to the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that runs the hardware, plans events, does outreach, and oh yeah, gives interviews. Third, you could always ask a few Wikipedians about Wikipedia. I recommend talking to a few of them, not just one, as you'll get a bit more balance in the opinions you hear that way (that being said almost any of them would have caught and corrected your error on staff article reviewers.)

In the end, it comes down to putting in the effort and caring about getting the facts right, both of which should be in the core of the journalistic ethos, but sadly do not seem to be when it comes to Wikipedia. Perhaps in time this will stop happening, but until it does, I leave you with this: Wikipeida is a unique resource, which more and more people are recognizing and treasuring as such. For whatever its flaws, it's a beautiful thing. However, every time a story in the media misrepresents or distorts Wikipedia, it damages that beautiful thing, and it hurts many of us ordinary people that have devoted so much time to making it possible. Journalists should know better than to drop the ball with facts, but it's not just Wikipedia that suffers in the end, the dedicated editors as well as the millions of users that visit Wikipedia come off a little worse off each time as well.

Thank you for your time,
Sven Manguard Wha? 21:16, 27 February 2011 (UTC)[reply]


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