As reported in various media outlets this week, including The Next Web and The Daily Dot, this past week, Wikimedia Commons and various language Wikipedias are working together to encourage subjects of Wikipedia articles to record a 10-second clip of their voice to be appended to their Wikipedia article. The goal of the project, which was originally proposed by Andy Mabbett, is for posterity to have the ability to know what someone's voice sounded like, as well as to have a definitive pronunciation of their name. Thus far, Charlie Duke and Stephen Fry are among the relative few that have participated. There are some concerns, not the least of which is sound quality, however, The Daily Dot perhaps aptly pontificated,
As for Fry's inaugural voice sample, well, there have been some gripes about quality. But what's more important, a crystal-clear recording, or the preservation of that perfectly British "um" for posterity? Besides, things really sound more historical when they're this grainy.
In case you had not yet heard, there is a major gender gap amongst Wikipedia editors, and consequently Wikipedia articles. On Saturday, 1 February 2014, Wikipedians new and old congregated on college campuses, libraries, or their own homes seeking to improve that gap and bias. They worked on articles with topics ranging from female artists to feminists themselves to important events in the women's rights movement, and as evidenced by the results, it was a success, with dozens of new articles being created, and subpar articles being improved.
Several involved Wikipedians expressed optimism and satisfaction with the event. Daniel Case noted that efforts such as this edit-a-thon are important because "having a diverse array of viewpoints represented among editors ensures that we will be able to write more comprehensive articles." He also expressed optimism on how the event attracted and mentored new users, commenting, "I think it helped a few new people get over the mystique and realize that they, too, can edit this thing." Girona7, another experienced Wikipedian, made the following comment in regards to the event she attended:
We had a lovely turnout considering we weren't even sure we were going to be able to hold the event on short notice. Our hosts from the SMFA were fabulous; I would love to hold events there again should the opportunity arise. Our eight attendees were split between established editors and newbies… I spent a good amount of time tutoring individuals who needed assistance and basic introductions to Wikipedia markup. In all we created two new articles and improved four others during the event—mainly these were biographies of individual artists. I was definitely proud to be a part of this well-coordinated event. It is high time that more women in the art world get the recognition they deserve … we look forward to continuing these efforts as the year progresses.
In regards to article construction at the events, Kevin Rutherford noted that, at his event, "we were able to get at least a few articles up". Finally, Another Believer said,
In Portland, I estimate there were at least 40 participants who attended the event, which was six hours long and was held at Portland State University. Nearly a dozen Wikipedia articles were created, and more than twice that number were improved. Participants had many of their questions answered and were supplied educational brochures created by the Wikimedia Foundation. There was great interest in organizing similar events in the future, and I've heard there are already plans to host another arts edit-athon in April.
Wikipedia the top source of healthcare information for doctors, patients
IMS Health, a large United States-based health communications organization, recently published an report asserting that half of physicians have, at one time or other, consulted Wikipedia for information on various ailments that may afflict their patients. Similarly, patients have also consulted Wikipedia for information on what may plague them. Perhaps most shocking, there is a correlation between the amount of views on Wikipedia pages, and treatment courses of action physicians have pursued:
The top 100 English Wikipedia pages for health care topics were accessed an average 1.9 million times over the course of the past year. And analysis of prescription drug sales found a correlation between page views and medicine use.
"Increasingly, patients are turning to social media as an essential forum for obtaining and sharing information related to their health," Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, writes in the report.
Consequently, some doctors, professors, and medical students are seeking to ensure that Wikipedia's medical articles are stocked with information from reliable sources so that people do not obtain incorrect or potentially harmful information. ITM consulted WMF spokesman Jay Walsh for comment pertaining to the issues that Wikipedia can have with medical articles, as well as this new initiative from medical academics. In regards to a recent proposal to append a disclaimer to all medical articles, he noted that while he "is glad to see that this is an important conversation within Wikipedia", WMF "does not think additional disclaimers are legally necessary", but appreciates the conversation that ensued on both sides on how to best serve readers. While he did not comment specifically on the latest endeavor by some medical professionals and students to improve medical articles, he did note,
The Foundation is always happy to see more subject matter experts get involved with Wikipedia, particularly when those new editors are getting solid guidance on the principles and policies of Wikipedia and norms and best practices of collaborating with the community. You can look to several years of great work by the Wikipedia Education Program to see how much the Foundation supports initiatives such as this.
Several newspapers and publications covered both the report, and ensuing initiative. Herein lies an unexhaustive list:
Manipulation of Wikipedia a "problem for democracy"
A Monitor TV programme on German television on 30 January 2014 (transcript) highlighted covert PR work in Wikipedia, describing such manipulation of a website that has a de-facto monopoly on providing information to the internet public as a potential "problem for democracy".
The programme featured an interview with Malte Landwehr, a PR consultant who stated that he knew of a number of PR agencies who had Wikipedia administrators on their staff and said that the use of sockpuppets to alter articles and manipulate discussions was widespread.
Another PR consultant interviewed for the programme expressed satisfaction with a Wikipedia article on a particular building style, "Schwedenhaus", that she had placed in Wikipedia to promote the business of a company specialising in prefabricated houses of that style, under that name. The article featured several pictures of the manufacturer's products, with the company's name and website noted on the image description pages in Commons. Shortly after the broadcast had ended, the Wikipedia article—which had existed for close to two years—was nominated for deletion (the article was eventually kept, although in much shortened form, and without the manufacturer's pictures). The user who created it was blocked by an administrator the same evening.
Pavel Richter, the head of Wikimedia Germany, and Dirk Franke, who for the past year has been conducting a paid-editing study funded by Wikimedia Germany, also appeared in the programme. The programme has been discussed at length in the German Wikipedia, in particular on the talk page of the German Wikipedia's Kurier newsletter.
The topic of PR editing is currently in the public eye in Germany, after a study published by German investigative journalist Marvin Oppong last month asserted that PR manipulation in Wikipedia is widespread.
Azeri news site news.az reported on 24 January 2014 that IRELI, a youth organization that recently won a "Best of the Best" award from the Azeri government, will "launch WikiDays project in partnership with Wikipedia Azerbaijan." The announcement said,
Professional trainers will hold training and seminars about how to create and edit Wikipedia articles, to protect Wiki-articles, Wikimedia fund, principles of propaganda in Wikipedia and other issues as part of the project. The project aims to encourage the youth to use Wikipedia in a correct manner, to protect interests of Azerbaijan in Wikipedia and prevent distortion of information about Azerbaijan.
More repression is also the strategy being adopted in Azerbaijan, where the very survival of media pluralism is in danger. The TV stations are under government control, the main foreign radio stations are banned, and the main opposition newspaper barely circulates except in the capital and is on the verge of financial extinction. At the same time, recalcitrant journalists and bloggers are exposed to physical attacks, death threats, smear campaigns and abduction. Will the emergence of new alternative exile media save pluralism?
The situation is similar in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan—the other three ex-Soviet countries described by Reporters Without Borders as being run by "oil and gas despots" who escape international censure because of their countries' mineral wealth and strategic importance. Azerbaijan is now listed at no. 160 in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index.
Programming languages in Wikipedia: i-programmer.info looked at the information contained in Wikipedia infoboxes as to which programming languages influenced which, creating a graph of the data and suggesting that some of the information in Wikipedia was in need of improving. (26 January 2014)
What I learned while editing Wikipedia: Indian Wikimedian Noopur Raval shared her experiences of editing Wikipedia on opensource.com. (27 January 2014)
Ethical Wikipedia tactics for marketing and PR: Ethical Wiki, a "professional services firm focused on helping companies contribute to Wikipedia ethically", announced its introduction of the Wikipedia Academy for Marketers on prnewswire.com. A subsequent article on prweekus.com explained that the goal was "to teach professionals how to engage the Wikipedia community in a way that is compliant with its disclosure laws, community policies, and established best practices". The Academy includes "guides on how to submit an article to Wikipedia's editors for consideration, request corrections, and approach unfair content using tools and templates". (27/29 January 2014)
Wikimedia comms unit in flux: prweekus.com reported that the Wikimedia Foundation comms unit is in flux after several staffers have left. General Counsel Geoff Brigham is the interim leader of the comms unit. (28 January 2014)
Wikipedia at the Kolkata Book Fair: tech.firstpost.com reported on Wikipedia's presence at the Kolkata Book Fair. (29 January 2014)
Digging for the real facts about Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton: straight.com featured an interview with Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton. In the interview, Paxton pointed out that various facts in his Wikipedia biography were untrue, but suggested he was not bothered: "... leave it up there, I like it. Yeah, the more bullshit, the better. Long as they know I didn't write it, I'm fine." (29 January 2014)
Wikipedia editing service now accepts Bitcoin: WikiExperts.us, the "premier Wikipedia visibility agency", informed the public that the company now accepts Bitcoin as a method of payment. The company is currently banned from Wikipedia. (29 January 2014)
"Detractors are trying to distort my Wikipedia profile": Indian actress and model Payal Rohatgi told The Times of India reporter Vinita Chaturvedi that recent vandalism to her Wikipedia article was part of an effort by "detractors" to hurt her and her boyfriend, Indian wrestler and reality show star Sangram Singh, connecting it to "fake profiles" and other attacks on the couple. An IP editor inserted a fake birth year in two places in the article on January 11, which were corrected by two other IP editors on January 22 and January 27. Rohatgi said that she attempted to edit the article herself but said the page was "locked", though there is no record of any protection on that article since 2008. Rohatgi said, "The sad part is that anybody can edit Wikipedia, making a fake profile. That is why it is easy to post anything there. It should not be allowed." (30 January 2014)
Wikipedians in the media: Two Wikipedians had profiles in the media: Theo Patt on the website of Memphis news channel WREG-TV, and Evangeline Han in The Star (Malaysia). (30–31 January 2014)
Former WMF community officer tells India to stand up to US domination of the Internet: Zack Exley, former Chief Revenue Officer at the Wikimedia Foundation, told India in an interview in The Hindu to stand up to "US domination of the Internet". (31 January 2014)
Wikipedia and new forms of collective intelligence: Don Tapscott in the Huffington Postdiscussed forms of collective intelligence that might soon make Wikipedia seem "primitive". (31 January 2014)
Biggest losers hoax: The Daily Mail and news.com.au reported that Australian TV Network 10 had to field "calls from frantic fans after Wikipedia published what was claimed to be the final results of The Biggest Loser Australia online just over one week into the series premiere of the ninth season." The information in Wikipedia was incorrect and subsequently removed. (3 February 2014)
Fuck on the main page?: The Daily Dotreported on the recent discussion about whether the Featured Article Fuck (film) should have a stint on the Wikipedia main page. Also covered a week later by The Houstonian. (3, 10 February 2014)
The New York Times has been editing Wikipedia: BuzzFeed reported that New York Times computers had been used to edit the biographies of various New York Times reporters. The matter was also reported by UPI. (3 February 2014)
Serbian politician's biography vandalised: InSerbia News had a piece on recent vandalism to the biography of Aleksandar Vučić. (4 February 2014)
Vengeance via Wikipedia?: The Daily Dotreported on a dispute between Wikipedian Erik Haugen and Jack Anderson, the founder of science journal blog Scholarly Kitchen. The dispute led to the temporary deletion of the Scholarly Kitchen article on Wikipedia. The Wikipedia article had been created by Anderson's co-workers and contained wording from the Scholarly Kitchen site's "About" section, raising a potential copyright concern. (5 February 2014)
Wikimedia Foundation hires lobbyist: Politico reported that the Wikimedia Foundation has hired a lobbyist, Thompson Coburn, to monitor copyright legislation. The account will be handled by James Burger and Kenneth Salomon, formerly of Dow Lohnes. (6 February 2014)
Finnish police probe Wikipedia fundraising: News site afterdawn.com reported that Finland's Police Ministry had contacted the Wikimedia Foundation for information on its fundraising drive. In Finland, charity donation drives require prior police approval, as a way to prevent fraud. It appears no such approval was obtained. The matter has been passed over to Wikimedia Foundation lawyers; the Foundation is required to provide information by 21 February 2014. The matter is being discussed on the Wikimedia mailing list. Also covered in an English-language article by Yle, Finland's national broadcasting company, as well as by RT and numerous Finnish-language media outlets. (7–8 February 2014)
Wikipedians in the European Parliament: France Télévisionsreported on this week's photography project at the European Parliament, in the course of which Wikipedians took pictures of the parliament's 766 members. The 38,650 Euro project led by Olaf Kosinsky was funded by the Wikimedia Foundation, which contributed 10,000 Euro ($13,650), and several European Wikimedia Chapters. (7 February 2014)
SBM Offshore hit by bribery allegations in Wikipedia: Reutersreported that the share price of Dutch maritime engineering group SBM Offshore fell after allegations of bribery were published in Dutch business magazine Quote and in the group's Wikipedia article. The article's edit history shows severalinsertions of very detailed material, partly unsourced, by a British and a Dutch IP, as well as deletions of it by ClueBot and by an account named SBMO. The Wall Street Journal also published an article covering the story. SBM Offshore in turn released a statement saying that a former employee had attempted to blackmail them, and that when they refused to entertain the threat, material very similar to that which the employee had e-mailed them was posted on Wikipedia. SBM Offshore announced they would be "taking steps against the former employee", adding that the material posted on Wikipedia was "not representative of the facts". (7 February 2014)
Wikipedia vs. the small screen: The New York Timesdiscussed the challenges Wikipedia faces as more and more users are accessing the encyclopedia on smartphones and tablets—devices made for "consumer behaviour" rather than "creative behavior", as the article puts it. Only 1 percent of Wikipedia edits are made from mobile devices. (10 February 2014)
"Wiki-Pedials" crowdsourcing our history: Forbes.com hosted a piece on how "the Wikipedia generation will change the world". (10 February 2014)
Scrutinising neutrality: 24dash.com hosted a University of Leicester write-up of a paper on Wikipedia's neutrality. The paper, authored by Dr. Ruth Page and published in the journal Language and Literature, looked at the Wikipedia article on the murder of Meredith Kercher. (10 February 2014)
No Wikipedia involvement in online protest: techpresident.com noted Wikipedia's absence from the "The Day We Fight Back" protests against mass surveillance. (11 February 2014)
Cape Town Wikimania bid: African tech website humanipo.com reported that Cape Town is in the running to host Wikimania 2015. Douglas Scott, the leader of the Cape Town bid, told the site that having Wikimania in Africa would boost awareness of Wikipedia in Africa and create more awareness of Africa in Wikipedia, too: "Africa is a bit of a dark hole when it comes to Wikipedia. There isn’t much on Africa or on African topics, and when there is the quality isn’t very high. The conference will create awareness with the intended vision of increasing the quantity as well as the quality of articles on African topics." (11 February 2014)
Arabic Wikipedia: An article in Wired looked at the history and challenges of the Arabic Wikipedia. (12 February 2014)