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Uproar over Italian shutdown, the varying reception of BLP mischief, and Wikipedia's doctor-evangelist

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By Skomorokh, Tilman Bayer and Tom Morris

Media storm for Italian Wikipedia shutdown

Following the announcement and discussion covered in last week's Signpost, Italian Wikipedia was shut down for three days in protest against a proposed law that could have held bloggers, web site owners and possibly even Wikipedians liable for posting corrections to content within 48 hours or facing a stiff fine.

The Wikimedia Foundation rapidly endorsed the shutdown with a blog post entitled Regarding recent events on Italian Wikipedia; the endorsement was reported on by Business Insider. The shutdown was widely covered by the media with articles posted on the websites of BBC News, The Independent, The Atlantic, Euronews, The Register, TechCrunch, Ars Technica, Techdirt and CNETA News. An Associated Press report was published on a number of sites including Forbes.

Cynthia Wong posted an entry on the blog for the Center for Democracy and Technology claimed that the Wikipedia shut down shows that if passed the law "would, in effect, shut Italy out of the global community of Wikipedia users".

During the shutdown, Jimmy Wales weighed in through an interview posted on the International Journalism Festival website. In the interview, Wales claimed: "The decision was taken by the Italian community in part because they felt that there was no genuine avenue for protest in the mainstream media without a bold action."

As the Nieman Journalism Lab blog reports, during the shutdown a hashtag appeared on social media website Twitter called #graziewikipedia, with users of the microblogging service showing support and solidarity for the shutdown. Cory Doctorow blogged about the story for BoingBoing describing the proposed law as "punitive" and "batshit". News aggregation sites Reddit and Hacker News both had lively discussions of the protest.

On Thursday (October 6), as AFP reports, Italian Wikipedia reopened following an announcement that the law would be amended to only cover traditional news media sites. The Wall Street Journal's TechEurope blog reported the amendment following the strike as "in the short-term at least... a victory for Wikipedia".

Canadian doctor-editor recruits colleagues in the lecture theatre

Wikimedia Canada president Dr. James Heilman (User:Jmh649), physician and Wikipedia evangelist

TheSpec and Physorg both covered the Wikipedia evangelism of Wikimedia Canada president Dr James Heilman (better-known hereabouts as User:Jmh649) at McMaster University. Heilman was there to beseech the academic community to engage with the encyclopaedia, entreating that "We know it is extensively read and we know the quality of information is hit and miss. Some is good. Some is poor. We want to provide high quality medical information to everyone around the world and to do that we are going to need the help of our colleagues." Citing the high usage rate of Wikipedia's medical articles by both patients and physicians (of whom between 60% and 70% consult the site according to surveys cited by Heilman) as evidence for the importance of improving coverage of medical-related topics, and recounting his own experience as a contributor, Heilman called on faculty to incorporate Wikipedia editing into university assignments. It was, he asserted, a "huge missed opportunity when you have these very intelligent people doing research papers and learning all about an issue just to have the paper sit on a shelf ... we can leverage the knowledge to improve everyone's knowledge about health-care subjects. We all have an interest in making sure good information is available". The event attracted 30 participants. Last month, Heilman had published an article in a medical journal explaining to his colleagues "Why we should all edit Wikipedia" (Signpost coverage), and Wikimedia Canada is currently offering a C$1000 scholarship to the Canadian student who makes "the most significant contribution to Wikipedia's medical content."

In brief

Shiju Alex, prominent Malayalam Wikipedian joins Wikimedia Foundation in India as Consultant, Indic languages
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