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The Scottish Parliament gets involved, a wikirace on live TV, and the Foundation's CTO goes on record

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By Bri, Red-tailed hawk, Oltrepier and Andreas Kolbe

Scottish Parliament computers might have been used to edit Wikipedia, report says

Portrait of Alex Cole-Hamilton
Alex Cole-Hamilton, one of the several politicians involved in the latest "Wiki-gate" report

As first reported by The Scottish Sun, and then shared by The National, a few computers from the Scottish Parliament's headquarters might have been used to edit the Wikipedia articles of several MSPs from all over the political spectrum. Both newspapers correctly remind that all kinds of edits made to a specific page are automatically archived in its history: in this case, the original inquiry found that the IP addresses of some unregistered users apparently trace back to Holyrood. If confirmed, this would represent an evident breach not only of the parliamentary code of conduct, but also Wikipedia's rules on conflict of interest.

The main subject involved in the inquiry is Scottish Liberal Democrats leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton. Back in February 2021, the MSP received widespread backlash after being caught insulting his fellow politician Maree Todd, who was then serving as the Minister for Children and Young People, during an online institutional meeting. On February 16 of the same year, user Alex B4 added a short mention of the incident, which included a National article that further criticized Cole-Hamilton for his inappropriate apologies to Todd. However, on February 24, an IP user stepped in to remove references to the incident entirely: then, they proceeded to cut down part of the information provided on Cole-Hamilton's expenses for his campaign ahead of the 2016 elections, calling them "ad hominem attacks". All of the content was eventually restored by Alex himself on March 7. Since then, another IP user deleted some of the references about the 2021 incident again, replacing them with an unsourced statement claiming that Cole-Hamilton wrote a letter saying sorry to Todd, before apologizing to her in person – a statement that is still up at the time of writing this piece.

Other notable MSPs involved in the report are incumbent Scottish First Minister and SNP leader, Humza Yousaf, who was added to a list of "notable alumni" of the US-backed International Visitor Leadership Program; Reform UK Scotland leader, Michelle Ballantyne, who had an entire section about her political controversies removed from her article; and, finally, incumbent Minister for Cabinet and Parliamentary Business, George Adam, whose love for football club St Mirren F.C. was further highlighted on his page – curiously, Adam was the only one who immediately responded upon being contacted by The Sun, and it looks like he just had a good laugh out of the "incident". – O, B and RTH

Taylor Tomlinson hosts a wikirace on live TV

caricature of Snoop Dogg
Can you get from the celebrity depicted here to the Great Depression in five clicks or fewer?

In a recent episode of CBS-hosted comedy panel show After Midnight, aired on February 12, 2024, host Taylor Tomlinson arranged a special wikirace as part of one of the show's mini-games, Wikipedia Link. In the occasion, her fellow comedians Vinny Thomas, Riki Lindhome and Rob Huebel took turns to guess how many clicks it takes to go from Snoop Dogg to the Great Depression on the English Wikipedia.

Tomlinson introduced the game by deeming Wikipedia as "humanity's CliffsNotes", as the three panelists then shared increasingly unorthodox guesses, ranging from weed to The Grapes of Wrath. Although it was Huebel who eventually found the right number of articles needed to complete the race, specifically five (including the two aforementioned pages), Tomlinson revealed quite an unexpected pattern: from Snoop, to Peanuts, to Howdy Doody, to Wonder Bread, to the 1939 New York World's Fair, to the Great Depression. However, in the comments below the video extract available on the show's YouTube channel, several users have stated there are even shorter paths connecting the two pages.

No matter who is right, it's safe to say Taylor and the rest of the After Midnight staff deserve a shout-out for helping popularize the wikirace trend and, by extension, Wikipedia as a whole. – O

Selena Deckelmann profile

The MIT Technology Review has published a profile of the Wikimedia Foundation's CTO, Selena Deckelmann. The main focus of the piece is how Deckelmann sees the place of Wikipedia in the age of chatbots:

Deckelmann argues that Wikipedia will become an even more valuable resource as nuanced, human perspectives become harder to find online. But fulfilling that promise requires continued focus on preserving and protecting Wikipedia’s beating heart: the Wikipedians who volunteer their time and care to keep the information up to date through old-fashioned talking and tinkering. Deckelmann and her team are dedicated to an AI strategy that prioritizes building tools for contributors, editors, and moderators to make their work faster and easier, while running off-platform AI experiments with ongoing feedback from the community. “My role is to focus attention on sustainability and people,” says Deckelmann. “How are we really making life better for them as we’re playing around with some cool technology?”

However –

Today Deckelmann sees a newer sustainability problem in AI development: the predominant method for training models is to pull content from sites like Wikipedia, often generated by open-source creators without compensation or even, sometimes, awareness of how their work will be used. “If people stop being motivated to [contribute content online],” she warns, “either because they think that these models are not giving anything back or because they’re creating a lot of value for a very small number of people—then that’s not sustainable.” At Wikipedia, Deckelmann’s internal AI strategy revolves around supporting contributors with the technology rather than short-circuiting them. The machine-learning and product teams are working on launching new features that, for example, automate summaries of verbose debates on a wiki’s "Talk" pages (where back-and-forth discussions can go back as far as 20 years) or suggest related links when editors are updating pages. “We’re looking at new ways that we can save volunteers lots of time by summarizing text, detecting vandalism, or responding to different kinds of threats,” she says.

The article also discusses the potential need for Wikipedia to meet its readers elsewhere online, naming the Foundation's Wikipedia ChatGPT plugin as an example. – AK

In brief

We covered it, OK? Jeesh.
American Beaver
This beaver comes at no charge special for readers of The Signpost made in USA
A gray haired woman wearing glasses being coached in front of a computer screen on a desk, with a stack of books also on the desk near her arm
Workshops for older Czech editors have been held at least since this 2016 event in Brno
Jimmy Wales reading a newspaper
Circular reporting? Jimbo reads the news, we read the news about Jimbo.



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Scottish Parliament computers might have been used to edit Wikipedia, report says

I feel like this story deserves a full "Disinformation report", because those IP users might have edited an even bigger amount of articles than the report suggested... Oltrepier (talk) 09:11, 3 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]

Taylor Tomlinson hosts a wikirace on live TV

For what it's worth, Snoop DoggClevelandGreat Depression is 3. — Qwerfjkltalk 12:28, 2 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]

... according to this script. Qwerfjkltalk 15:34, 2 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Yes, that's the same theme that I came here to comment. For any sufficiently famous American, one can expect with fair confidence that one can start from the portion of their Wikipedia article that discusses the places where they've grown up, lived, worked, or visited, then use that phenomenon to click through and scroll to the history of such a place, including the portion of that chronology that covers the 1930s era, and for any sufficiently famous city or state, a link to the Great Depression is likely to be discoverable. I had never consciously done that analysis before, but while I was skimming the news article the notion arose as one of the methods for solving that has the right combination of power and likelihood, across many instances of notable persons and notable places. Quercus solaris (talk) 16:23, 2 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
@Qwerfjkl and Quercus solaris: Yes, obviously the show's staff went for a specific number of articles and a specific pattern, but the possibilities are almost infinite, really... Anyhow, shout-out to Taylor and the rest of the writing crew! : D Oltrepier (talk) 08:39, 3 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
Agreed! Good fun, plus it encourages people to think while having fun. Quercus solaris (talk) 16:03, 3 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
I suspect this varies greatly depending on whether navboxes (which are hidden on mobile) are allowed. Nardog (talk) 03:27, 7 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]

In brief

A small correction: The court case was decided by a single judge on the Court of International Trade. voorts (talk/contributions) 21:16, 2 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]

@Voorts: Thank you, I'll add it to the entry! Oltrepier (talk) 08:42, 3 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]
It kind of hurts when a Federal judge says WP is "unreliable evidence"; however, Judge Choe-Groves provides some good tips in the ruling on improving the article Drive shaft to include more details on "power take-off" shafts! ☆ Bri (talk) 16:55, 3 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]

It's funny yet annoying to see cringe people and organizations complain about Wikipedia yet again. Also based washington encyclopedia; I didn't know it existed lmao Firestar464 (talk) 02:01, 3 March 2024 (UTC)[reply]




       

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