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In the media

Concealment, data journalism, a non-pig farmer, and some Bluetick Hounds

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By Llewee, Bri, and Smallbones

Revealing the obvious concealment

"Wikipedia page for Biden's new Covid czar scrubbed of politically damaging material" states Politico. The article reports how an account linked to consulting firm Saguaro Strategies removed potentially politically compromising details from Jeff Zients's Wikipedia page. US President-elect Joe Biden plans to put Zients in charge of his administration's response to COVID-19. The account – which initially operated under the username Saguarostrat, was renamed, then was indefinitely blocked for undisclosed paid editing in violation of the WMF Terms of Use – removed information related to Zients's corporate career, made him appear less "Republican" and added that he left his role on the board of Facebook "over differences with company leadership over governance and its policies around political discourse" though Zients has never claimed such publicly. The article discusses how the online images of both Democrats and Republicans have been a common cause of scandal in recent years and attempts to clean them up have become a normalized part of American political life, with an inside source suggesting that while the law firms which specialize in helping candidates for senior positions through their confirmation processes generally focus on other issues such as removing social media posts, editing Wikipedia is more likely done by consultants. Another Wikipedia-related scenario mentioned was the period prior to Kamala Harris' nomination as Biden's VP candidate: her Wikipedia page "was edited far more than the other contenders for vice president and the majority of the edits were by a single person".

However, America's politicians certainly aren't the only ones not always playing above board in the Wiki world. Staffers in the Canadian and Australian governments got into hot water for Wikipedia editing in 2014 and 2016 respectively, while analysis from 2012 suggested that British MPs and their staff were responsible for nearly 10,000 changes to the site. L

Introducing Wikipedia and data journalism

"Harnessing Wikipedia's superpowers for journalism" by Wikipedian Monika Sengul-Jones on gives a great introduction to Wikipedia in 4,000 words – with many charts, tables and illustrations. It would be worth every word even if you only wanted an academically-oriented introduction to the encyclopedia, but it spends most of those words on how journalists can use Wikipedia – a skill that many general reporters could use – and then describes how the data provided to the public as well as to reporters can be even more useful. This reporter, who has spent a couple of years writing for The Signpost, picked up a few pointers. Those Wikipedians who wish to become reporters for this newspaper are highly encouraged to read and re-read Sengul-Jones's article.

Her first example shows how a Twitter bot, which monitors Wikipedia's data feeds, revealed that an anonymous editor with an IP address from the Executive Office of the President in the White House removed the following from the article on Adam S. Boehler: "During college, Boehler was a summer roommate of his future Trump administration boss Jared Kushner." Then Sengul-Jones adds "but there's evidence the bots can be manipulated". After discussing some of the limits of Wikipedia data she quotes Benjamin Mako Hill: "The reality for journalists working on the internet is fraught [...] Most internet data sets are controlled by commercial companies. That means there's never going to be a full data set and what's available has been – or is being –manipulated. Wikipedia is different. It's free, it's accessible, and it's from a public service organization."

In just the first half of the article pageviews are covered in detail, as are the Wikipedia organizational structure, editing model, and Section 230 with quotes from Noam Cohen, Brian Keegan, Jackie Koerner and WMF CEO Katherine Maher along the way. The second half is just as packed with information. -S

The article on Michael Perry falsely said that he is a pig farmer

Michael Perry claims that he types for a living. He writes a weekly column in the Wisconsin State Journal and formerly kept a passel of five pigs. While he might return to his porcine pursuits, he doubts that it will be possible, so he wanted to correct "his" Wikipedia article. With that premise and some quirky humor he cranked out a 500 word column. He's got this writing business down to an art.

I wasn't quite convinced, so I emailed him and asked – what was that column all about? Yep, he just wanted the Wikipedia article about him to be correct. It was corrected on the same morning the column was published. It looks like Perry has solved one of the most ancient mysteries of the internet – how to get a Wikipedia article corrected. You just need to publish an article in a reliable source. Of course not everybody can write a newspaper article about themself, but thinking along the same line, article subjects might make a YouTube video of themselves, or even just write a press release to get noticed. Not that a press release would always work, but it's got to be better than writing on the article talkpage: "I'm not a pig farmer, I'm a writer, I'm a former pig farmer, a reformed swineherd, a redundant hog handler, please believe me, please ...".

Perry has written ten books, including a New York Times bestseller, Visiting Tom. He is a musician, radio show host, comedian, and nurse. He grew up on a dairy farm where he had "a childhood spent slinging manure – the metaphorical basis for a writing career." S

External videos
video icon Hound Dog, Elvis Presley
video icon Blue Christmas, Elvis Presley

In brief

A Bluetick Hound, state dog of Tennessee, and maybe Twitter someday
"Root hog or die", a "controversial" American expression with an article found by the media
Sign held by a protester during the George Floyd protests in Michigan

Odd bits

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Seriously though, if Twitter does this, I propose that we demand 1 American Dollar per month for every person who gets a blue tick because they have a Wikipedia article, and Twitter should pay for it since they are the ones insisting on using Wikipedia. Twitter's decision is simply terrible for Wikipedia (as an aside, this reminds me of a joke. If YouTube, Twitter and Facebook merged, we would have YouTwitFace! :-D ) (talk) 05:55, 29 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]


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