Mayor of Esino Lario warns Wikimania 2016 "at risk of disappearing"
A week before the start of the 2015 Wikimania conference in Mexico City comes troubling news about next year's conference. Esino Lario, a small village of only 750 people in northern Italy, was selected earlier this year as the site of the 2016 Wikimania conference, to the surprise of many (see previous Signpostcoverage). To host the event, the town needed hundreds of thousands of Euros from the Wikimedia Foundation and the Fondazione Cariplo, significant improvements to infrastructure, including buildings and internet connectivity, and the labor of a raft of volunteers. Despite this, the mayor of the town, Pietro Pensa, warns The Local Italy that the event is "at risk of disappearing".
At issue is a new group of migrants the town has been ordered to absorb. The European Union is currently struggling with a huge influx of migrants from Africa and the Middle East—a 149% increase in numbers from last year. Many are fleeing armed conflicts in Syria and the Libyan crisis. Due to its ample coastline and location in the Mediterranean, Italy is one of the European countries most affected by being the destination of numerous maritime asylum seekers. The largest influx of people seeking asylum in Italy come from Eritrea then Somalia, Nigeria and Syria.
The new group of refugees located in Esino Lario numbers 60, adding to the population of 41 refugees already living there. Their numbers are small, but altogether would become more than ten percent of the town's population. Pensa worries that the volunteers needed for Wikimedia will instead be diverted to assist the new arrivals. He said, "They are not so independent and need a lot of help. Each migrant will have a volunteer with them for two or three hours a day." Pensa also complained that a nearby town, Lecco, with a population 100 times as large, has absorbed no migrants.
Whether this is a legitimate concern that threatens Wikimania or merely a way to complain about an unfavorable decision remains to be seen. However, Pensa promised the town will still try to make Wikimania a success. "We'll do everything we can to host the convention. We want to show everybody how great Esino is by hosting the best and craziest Wikimania convention possible." (June 8)
"Wikipedia's greatest mystery" is anything but
Vocativreports on what it calls "Wikipedia's greatest mystery", namely why the article March 27 lists more births and deaths than any of the other articles on other dates on the calendar. Vocativ consulted "12 scholars" who mostly dismissed the matter, though one noted "the gaps between maximum and next maximum in both your series [of dates for births and deaths] suggest that this coincidence does have some deeper, though mysterious explanation." The explanation is not mysterious, nor is it a "loophole", as Vocativ describes it. Lists of births and deaths in these articles are not assembled from data taken from Wikipedia or Wikidata, they are created manually by editors, and thus any data taken from these articles will be skewed by the biases and interests (or disinterests) of those editors. The data spike for March 27 can be attributed to the edits of a single editor, 188.8.131.52. Wikimedia Foundation data analyst Erik Zachte explained to Vocativ that "Maybe that person was born on March 27, and took pleasure in finding many famous people with some link to that date." A similar spike for March 4 can be attributed to Acumen76, who for the last several years seems to have mostly edited only that article, and mostly only during the month of March. (June 7)
Hacking Team can't hack Wikipedia: WikiLeaks published a searchable collection of emails from the Hacking Team that were revealed in a June 5 data breach. The Hacking Team is an Italian IT company which has been criticized for selling surveillance capabilities and technology to oppressive governments. In one email, CEO David Vincenzetti asked "Can we change this abominable Hacking Team description at WikipediA? [sic]" An employee replied "This is not easy as you might think, but there may be a way. The problem is that WP distrusts companies in general and has a policy against taking changes from them. Still there are errors of fact in the HT article, so we'll see what we can do." There do not appear to be any significant changes to the article as a result of this exchange. (June 9)
The red link blues: In an interview with the Brandon Sun regarding his upcoming debut EP, teenage Canadian singer Francesco Yates was asked about the fact that he has no Wikipedia article yet. Yates replied "When the time is right, the Wikipedia will come. I will summon the Wikipeople." So watch for that red link to turn blue soon. (July 8)
The red ink blues: Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sangerannounced that Infobitt has "run out of money" and no longer will pay staff, but he writes that "I’ll still be contributing, and I hope you will too." Infobitt is a crowdsourced news website he founded last year that promised to be a "Wikipedia for news" (see previous Signpostcoverage). (July 8)
Is there life before Wikipedia?: In The New Yorker, Elias Muhanna, professor of comparative literature at Brown University, writes about his experience teaching a class called "Before Wikipedia", about the history of encyclopedic writing. (July 7)
Addressing gender issues in Residence: WBOY-TVreports that beginning in September there will be a new Wikipedian in Residence at West Virginia University who will "research and create new posts about some of the state’s most successful and influential women". While the Wikipedian in Residence program has been around since 2010, this will be the first WIR position created to specifically address gender issues. (July 6)
Is this the Tragedy of Macbeth?: The letter columns of the Marianas Variety feature an argument between two correspondents about allegations of plagiarizing Wikipedia, specifically the article on Shakespeare's Macbeth. (July 6)