Zambian establishment rocked by wiki-assassination
Zambian president Michael Sata reacted angrily to reports of his death-by-Wikipedia earlier this month, the Telegraphreports, after a miscreant edited the politico's article to include a spurious account of his assassination. According to the Lusaka Times, the vandalism was treated with utmost concern by the Zambian government, with Information Broadcasting and Tourism Minister Fackson Shamenda summoning media chiefs for a conference in its wake to discuss the need for restrictions of press freedom.
The Zambia Daily Mailreported the attribution of the misdeed to "the work of uncouth individuals who have failed to accept electoral defeat", that they were "intended to create chaos by causing despondency among Zambians" and "of great concern to Government as they are likely to bring confusion in the country". The edits were characterised as "unchristian" by Reverend Pukuta Mwanza of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, and as "inhuman" by Foundation for Democratic Process head MacDonald Chipenzi, while former Church of God overseer John Mambo implored the government to pursue the culprits. Zambia Congress of Trade Unions spokesman Martin Chembe declared that those responsible were intent on spreading rancour in the country so as to impede the government's work, and decried the fact that it was possible to employ such tactics to deflect attention from the focus of improving the well-being of the Zambian people.
The Times of Zambia subsequently revealed that, in a development distinctly at odds with typical responses to biographical vandalism on-wiki, the government of the southern African state had petitioned their United States counterparts to assist in tracking the perpetrators. Minister of Home Affairs Kennedy Sakeni professed that "This process is moving well and all necessary formalities are being considered as you know we have to follow rightful diplomatic channels between our country and US government". In turn, visiting US deputy assistant Secretary of State Reuben Brigety pledged his government's willingness to come to Zambia's aid. The episode may illustrate national governments' ineptitude in grappling with the 21st century information network, as the edits in question appear to geolocate to yet another jurisdiction, the United Kingdom.
WMF's newest hire on journalism and editor engagement
[Wikipedia] has become central repository of our knowledge in many ways, like it or not. Embrace it and participate. Start by just rating articles or giving feedback, then experiment with editing or adding sources. You don’t have to leap straight into writing articles.
The Knight Digital Media Center this week conducted an interview with Fabrice Florin, a former contractor on the Article Feedback tool initiative who was recently announced as the Wikimedia Foundation's Product Manager for New Editor Engagement, responsible for directing the development of technical features intended to ameliorate the decline in editor replenishment rates.
Florin, whose background is in journalism, spoke at length about the intersecting worlds of Wikipedia and journalism, encouraging his colleagues to engage more with the encyclopaedia both by deferring to its in-depth coverage in their reports and by actively editing themselves. He elaborated on these themes in a post shared with the Knight Center, speaking of the encyclopaedia as "a de-facto news organization in its own right".
Although Wikipedia is highly rated for usability by readers (see this week's Technology report), the daunting challenging of the editing interface for prospective contributors has long been fingered as the chief contributing cause to flagging participation. This problem, as well as readers' lack of awareness that they are actively encouraged to participate as editors, is at the crux of Florin's concerns. However, the characterisation of the already controversial Article Feedback Tool as primarily an attempt to lure new editors – with garnering suggestions and critical evaluations for article improvement as secondary benefits – may well unsettle English Wikipedia editors wary of its deployment to date.
Foundation ranked #1: In a ranking of top 100 non-governmental organisations, Geneva-based periodical The Global Journal selected the Wikimedia Foundation in the highest position. Its rationale for the ranking focused chiefly on the success of the Wikipedia project and the foundation's ambitious expansion plans. Foundation board member SJ Kleinnoted the subjective nature of the ranking, but wrote that he was "proud to see Wikimedia's work recognized and used as general global inspiration". In a post publicising the news on the foundation's blog, Jay Walsh thanked the journal for the honour, "but especially for recognizing the work of our 100,000-strong global, volunteer community."
Dotcom disaffected: The New Zealand Herald has revealed the dissatisfaction with Wikipedia of internet kingpin Kim Dotcom, who was arrested after a raid on his elaborate mansion in the antipodean nation-state earlier this month as part of a sting against his copyright-infringing Megaupload empire. In an exclusive interview with the paper, Dotcom (birthname: Kim Schmitz) took umbrage at the encyclopaedia's summary of his accomplishments as 'embezzlement, fraud, the handling of stolen goods and insider trading'. He protested less at the accuracy of the accusations than the undue weight of coverage implicit in the omission of his positive acts, which served to present a skewed overall portrait rather than a measured biography. This is a subtle and insidious problem for Wikipedian biographers, although the talkpage of the article in question has seen curiously little acrimony during the latest media spectacle.
Plagiarism goes papal: The Vatican raised eyebrows earlier this month when its press briefings on 22 new cardinals named by the Pope were revealed to have been lifted without attribution from Wikipedia. The story was picked up on by The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, and BBC News, among others.
Has Wikipedia reached an "innovation plateau"? Writing for Forbes magazine, technology consultant Jerry Michalski reflects on past experiences with developers at Encarta and MSNBC.com, focusing specifically on the lack of integration of dynamic content such as webcam footage and stock tickers (in the 1990s) at these projects. He posits that Wikipedia has likewise hit an innovation impasse ("it makes a great example of a stable plateau"), citing the encyclopaedia as having become increasingly cemented as a knowledge platform in readers' consciousnesses while failing to incorporate interactive features. Michalski's timely musings as to whether and how Wikipedia's custodians will be able to overcome the fate of its moribund predecessors may be encouraging to to the tireless efforts of Wikipedia's developers and in particular, to the engaging innovations being championed by Fabrice Florin and his team.