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5, 10, and 15 Years ago: September 2022

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By Adam Cuerden
From the archive: The monkey selfie copyright dispute concluded in early September 2017. David Slater put out photographic equipment for monkeys to use, and one named Naruto took this selfie. Slater claimed copyright on the image, PETA sued Slater, saying Naruto owned the copyright (and they should administer it for him because that's how they think this works). Wikipedia said, (correctly, according to judges), that you can't claim a copyright on behalf of an animal photographer, and uploaded the image to our servers, and Slater told us to take it down. We didn't.

Yep, we're back again for a structured look into Wikipedia's history...

Five years ago

Two issues came out in September 2017, as the continually delayed production finally caught up, moving The Signpost from publishing around the 6th of every month to nearer the 26th, but other than a slight obsession with chickens, the only things of note in the second issue was the conclusion of the monkey selfie lawsuits and the start of a sustainability initiative, so we'll focus on the first issue.

September started with appallingly bad news: the extrajudicial death of Palestinian Syrian Wikipedian Bassel Khartabil. It seems only right to start with The Signpost's tribute to him, written by Bluerasberry:

Bassel had been arrested on 15 March 2012 and held in detention until September 2015 when his communication was cut and the Syrian prison system ceased communication about him. The Wikimedia community and others participated in a campaign asking #WhereIsBassel. The recent announcement confirmed that Bassel was missing because he had been executed outside of any legal process for activities including his engagement with Wikipedia and similar educational projects. A close friend of Bassel's remarked to Wikipedia that Bassel continually hid his on-wiki editing history and accounts for fear of his safety, so Wikipedians cannot review his work history.
At Wikimania 2017 in Montreal an Editathon for Bassel celebrated his life. There was also a Basselpedia Party at which attendees shared what they knew of Bassel and discussed his work and the circumstances of his death. Many media outlets reported on Bassel's death. Wikipedia participants wishing to demonstrate condolences may edit the Wikipedia articles about Bassel and his work, read for news on next steps, or take action as they deem respectful in his memory.

Even the September 6 "Traffic report" was rather dark in tone:

Godwin's Law states that any internet discussion that goes on too long will eventually have a Nazi comparison. Well, things have gotten so ugly in America that Godwin himself says there is a valid comparison to be found in the Unite the Right rally, led by white supremacists (#5) and featuring protesters carrying swastika flags and doing the Nazi salute. Understandably, anti-fascism groups (#7) appeared to counterprotest. And it all started because of a threat to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee (#2), showing the Civil War he fought is unfortunately resonant today.

Indeed, outside of an actual joke article, the funniest thing in the September 6th report was a brief mention in "In the media":

The second Confederate President: The list of President of the Confederate States of America was briefly vandalised by an IP to include Donald Trump. First reported on by Business Insider on August 15, several other media outlets picked up on the vandalism.

I'd like to think our readership is above WP:BEANS issues, so please don't make me have to be more careful for future issues..

Ten years ago: September 2012

Putting this here for layout reasons: September 2007 had what may be my favourite WikiWorld comic.

We're back onto weekly issues of The Signpost as we go back ten years, but each issue is much shorter. In 2012, we reported on Wikipedia's switch to HTML5 and to provide support for IPv6. Author Philip Roth attacked Wikipedia for an inaccuracy in reporting on his book The Human Stain, and Oliver Keyes (Ironholds) explained how Wikipedia can't just change things because someone asks us to.

But by far the most awkward thing was Internet Brands, then-owner of Wikitravel, suing Doc James (James Heilman) and Wrh2 (Ryan Holliday) for luring editors away to the new site Wikivoyage. From the article "Two Wikipedians may face jury trial" by Tony1 and The ed17:

In dramatic events that came to light last week, two English Wikipedia volunteers—Doc James (James Heilman) and Wrh2 (Ryan Holliday)—are being sued in the Los Angeles County Superior Court by Internet Brands ("IB"), the owner of Both Wikipedians have also been volunteer Wikitravel editors (and in Holliday's case, a volunteer Wikitravel administrator). IB's complaints focus on both editors' encouragement of their fellow Wikitravel volunteers to migrate to a proposed non-commercial travel guidance site that would be under the umbrella of the WMF (Signpost story "Tough journey for new travel guide").
Disenchantment within the volunteer Wikitravel community appears to concern an intensification of advertising on the site, IB's technical management, and the company's treatment of the volunteers who have built the CC-licensed content over many years. In today's New York Times article, "Travel site built on wiki ethos now bedevils its owner", veteran journalist Noam Cohen writes that, according to Heilman, "as many as 38 of the 48 most experienced and trusted volunteers at Wikitravel have said they will move to the Wikimedia project". The migration of the remaining Wikitravel volunteers to the foundation would come six years after German-speaking Wikitravel editors walked out of the project soon after Internet Brands acquired it, forking into a new Wikivoyage site, followed soon after by their fellow Italian-speaking editors. The non-profit association that runs Wikivoyage voted three months ago to join the proposed travel-related WMF project.
After months of community-led discussion on Meta, last Thursday the WMF's Deputy General Counsel, Kelly Kay, announced that the board "is moving forward with the creation of this new project", and had filed a lawsuit "seeking a judicial declaration that IB has no lawful right to impede, disrupt or block" the creation of a new WMF travel website.

In March 2013, we announced Wikimedia's victory in the lawsuit, and the acquittal of the two Wikipedians.

Fifteen years ago: September 2007

In September 2007, English Wikipedia hit two million articles (it now has about six and a half million); Jimbo Wales being interviewed was a huge event, hyped up the week before it happened (Pity the actual interview is a difficult-to-read clash of red and blue); Wikipedia was blocked in China again, a state that would continue off and on to present day. Reporting on WikiScanner continued, with more embarassing conflicts of interest found.

However, perhaps most interesting was that in 2007, some basic features of Wikipedia were still being worked out, hence standardisation of basic article message boxes, such as now-familiar "The neutrality of this article is disputed" message, {{POV}}. They've gained a lot more words since, but the standardisation has held strong. I thought it'd be interesting to look into the three boxes seen in the 2007 report ({{POV}}, {{Wikify}}, and {{Current}}), and look at a before, after, and present day. However, Wikify has been depreciated since then, so, for the present-day example, I used {{Format}}, created in 2012, as the nearest variant still in use.

And to briefly explain {{Wikify}}: See, in the early days of Wikipedia, it was not uncommon to see articles with no formatting whatsoever: No links to other articles, no headers, nothing. Nowadays, that's usually more of an indication something's probably a copy-pasted copyright violation, but it took a while for people to learn wikimarkup. And then we got VisualEditor, and, a bit later still, VisualEditor became functional and useful.

Before standardisation (I used the last version from 2006 for each):

The neutrality of this article is disputed.
Please see the discussion on the talk page.
This article may need to be wikified to meet Wikipedia's quality standards.
Please help improve this article, especially its introduction, section layout, and relevant internal links. (help)
This article documents a current event.
Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.

2007 standardisation

The neutrality of this article is disputed.
Please see the discussion on the talk page.
This article or section lacks formatting.
Please wikify it as suggested in the Guide to layout and the Manual of Style.
This article documents a current event.
Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.


TheDJ wrote an article in 2012 about his memories of the changeover, and, while the whole article is worth reading, to summarise: He credits the idea of the colour bars to Flamurai and says the implementation was spearheaded by David Göthberg, and states that it was a "very collaborative effort" and specifically notes this included "well known names" such as MZMcBride, Anomie, Happy-melon, David Levy, Quiddity, RockMFR, Remember the dot, Ilmari Karonen, Father Goose, Ned Scott and says there were about three dozen people who worked on it in total.

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