CBS and COVID-19 coverage
- CBS broadcast a remarkable story on Wikipedia's coverage of COVID-19. It was not just a repeat of the laudatory coverage Wikipedia received from other news outlets in the early months of the pandemic. Trustee James Heilman, aka Doc James, stated that the only proven way to control COVID-19 was through social distancing. He added "I do not recommend people trust Wikipedia blindly ... doing so would be silly. Yet, you know, people shouldn't trust other sources of information blindly, either." Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight said the Wikipedia editors were "like a learning machine," and explained the importance of references. Foundation CEO and Executive Director Katherine Maher outlined why people want to influence Wikipedia. "Knowledge is power. And that means that it is fundamentally disruptive, often to those in power. If you think about the history of what Wikipedia is, it's actually pretty radical... I mean, that it is an inversion of power structures, this idea that information can and should be available to all."
- Future Historians Will Rely on Wikipedia’s COVID-19 Coverage in Slate by Stephen Harrison, shows how Facebook and other social media platforms erase, rather than just remove, debunked propaganda and entries from conspiracy theorists. The back and forth struggle involved with editing difficult articles on Wikipedia, however, is preserved, leading Harrison to conclude that Wikipedia will be a popular source for future historians to study how the pandemic was reported.
- Wikipedia sets new rule to combat “toxic behaviour” on the BBC, following a WMF press release, outlines how harassment and other abuse will be combated, especially as it affects women and LGBTQ editors. New policies will be finalized by the end of the year. The editing community quickly reacted with a discussion on the Village pump.
- The Verge gives more details of the board resolution, including that the new Universal Code of Conduct will be drawn up with extensive input from editors.
Despite promising to be "finished with Wikipedia criticism" in 2013 Larry Sanger's blog post of May 14 titled Wikipedia Is Badly Biased claims that "Wikipedia's NPOV is dead". "The notion that we should avoid 'false balance' is directly contradictory to the original neutrality policy. As a result, even as journalists turn to opinion and activism, Wikipedia now touts controversial points of view on politics, religion, and science."
Fox News reported that Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger says online encyclopedia scrapped neutrality, favors lefty politics on May 22, giving an accurate summary of Sanger's blog post.
Gerard Baker, former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal wrote in The Times "Big tech is blatantly biased against Trump" (paywall), lumping in Wikipedia with all the big tech social media platforms, based on Sanger's blog.
False noses in France
A plague of faux nez (aka false noses or sockpuppets) has been reported by Le Monde in France as hundreds of accounts have been blocked by French Wikipedia admins for undeclared paid editing. Other coverage of the story is reported in
FranceInter, and La Reclame aka The Advertisement – all in
French. The Signpost covers the story (in English) at News & notes.
The five editors with the most edits
Online magazine ZME Science highlighted the 5 most prolific contributors on enWiki as ranked on WP:List of Wikipedians by number of edits. ZME relied on information from user pages and other Wikipedia pages as well as on previously published interviews from other publications. The Signpost asked these editors for their reaction to the article and a few related questions. The prolific five are:
- was widely covered in the press in 2018-2019 and feels that ZME got his story mostly right. But he no longer has the sideburns that show in the photo and he has changed his place of employment to another government agency. The quantity and quality of edits are both important in his opinion, but quantity is not the most important aspect of editing. Quantity of edits might be a good starting point in discussing what editors do, but "hopefully that can lead to a broader, richer, and deeper discussion of the Wikipedia experience." His favorite article contributions are Pohick Church, which recently was rated a Good Article, and Fanny Eckerlin, an Italian opera singer.
- has also been widely covered in the press, starting in 2012 when he made his one-millionth edit. The information ZME presented was correct. "I really like the fact that they framed my contributions to the site in terms of something that anyone can do, which is what I believe. There are some things I have done that not everyone can do but nothing that only I could do and everyone can do something (including many things that I can't)." He and the other four editors at the top of the list have all had some contact, but nothing out of the ordinary. "All five of us are fairly different human beings who have at least one common interest." His favorite contributions were to the article George Orwell bibliography.
- was "saddened by the poor quality" of the article. The author "paid no attention to the caveat lector section of that page, which explains the multiple ways in which a high edit count is a poor indication of the value of an editor's contribution." She believes that all five editors' high edit counts are "due to a focus on repetitive maintenance work," but that writing articles and lists such as her creations James Balfour (died 1845), William Grant, Lord Grant, and List of women cabinet ministers of the Republic of Ireland add more to the encyclopedia than a similar number of maintenance edits.
- has had good interactions with all four of the other editors mentioned in the article. He considers quantity vs. quality to be a false dichotomy. Rather "many small pieces of quality versus fewer large pieces is a better question. And the truth is that it is easier to deliver some types of quality in small increments." His favorite contributions include Whittington's Longhouse and the Industrial Christian Home for Polygamous Wives.
- says that ZME accurately summed up his user page and that Wikipedia's "goal is quality, but in quantity". The five prolific editors are similar because "you have to be in a certain socioeconomic and educational space to be someone who has the time, the resources, and the motivation to rack up that number of edits, so we are all that." His favorite contribution by far is Demographics of the Supreme Court of the United States. Other favorites include Scholar, Hesitation and Please.
- Wikipedia for personal insight: BBC shares a personal story in which a native Yiddish speaker in the United States learns about LGBT culture through a Hebrew-language Internet search which led to Wikipedia.
- Was the COVID-19 pandemic planned in January 2017 or 1917? FactCheck.org debunks the nut-case conspiracy theory that used screenshots from Wikipedia to a suggest a piece of legislation dealing with the response to the virus had been proposed well in advance of the pandemic. FactCheck states "All they show is a typo on Wikipedia and a misrepresentation of the bill’s legislative history."
- No personal attacks may be our policy, but that didn't stop a Chilliwack (Canada) school district trustee, Barry Neufeld, from citing "suspicions on Wikipedia" to deride a health official's gender as reported in Global News. He apparently referenced vandalism at Theresa Tam. Neufeld later apologized and there is now a Wikipedia article on him.
- Yes Deputy Chief Minister: The Pioneer reports that Manish Sisodia, the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, suggests that everyone go read about Happiness Curriculum on Wikipedia. If you're happy and you know it, you get an A.
- Can a Virtual Edit-a-Thon make Wikipedia More Inclusive? asks Houstonia Magazine. Jaison Oliver organized an edit-a-thon via Zoom because of the pandemic. The brief answer is "yes."
- Representing the pretty criminals: The Cambrian News reports on our Wikimedian-in-residence at the National Library of Wales taking advantage of his spare time during the pandemic lockdown to upload the institution's archive of criminal mugshots to Commons.
- False alarm: In an analysis of fake news' effects on publicity in Africa, Andrew Christian of WeeTracker reviews how a misreported death on Rema (musician), despite being fixed in minutes, quickly spread across Nigerian social media. The Wikimedia Foundation confirmed that the incorrect edit was vandalism.
- Section 230: Slate carries Mike Godwin's op-ed The Trump–Twitter war shows that section 230 can work beautifully (May 29, 2020). Godwin is former Wikimedia Foundation general counsel and was counsel of record in the United States Supreme Court case Reno v. ACLU.
- Kremlin drops plans for state-approved Wikipedia: The Times (paywall) reports that the Russian government has scrapped plans to build an online encyclopedia based on the Great Russian Encyclopedia to replace Wikipedia in Russia. While no reason was given for the shutdown, The Times speculates that the collapse of oil prices and the Russian economic crisis following the COVID-19 pandemic have made the project too expensive. Earlier coverage this month (not paywalled) stated that the working group charged with creating the Russian online encyclopedia was disbanded but that project would continue. Boris Chernyshov, Chairman of the Duma Committee for education and science, called the idea of such an online encyclopedia impractical.
- "Worth Every Goddamn Second": The satirical newspaper The Onion gives a nice send-up to our article on Steven Seagal.
- "And this is where they saying it started?!": Hip-hop outlet SOHH discusses how rapper Cam'ron takes umbrage with the way our article on the phrase "No homo" credits him with popularizing its usage.
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