Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Friday, June 24, 2005

Cool wikipedia search engine.

Wikisnips of the Day

Programming languages.

There are several languages whose code looks like english phrases. Beatnik uses scrabble scores to convert words to numbers to operators. Each program in Chef is a recipe. Each program in Shakespeare is a full-formatted several-act play. Sample:

Speak YOUR mind! You are as bad as Hamlet! You are as small as the difference between the square of the difference between my little pony and your big hairy hound and the cube of your sorry little codpiece. Speak your mind!

That was Juliet printing another character (variable) and assigning him values.

Whitespace ignores everything but spaces, tabs, and carriage returns. Ook is designed for Chimpanzees. (Sample line: "Ook. Ook? Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook. Ook.") Programs in Piet are bitmap images that look a little like abstract art. Choon produces musical notes as its only output. var'aq is modeled on Klingon. TMMLPTEALPAITAFNFAL stands for "The Multi-Million Language Project To End All Language Projects And Isn't That A Fine Name For A Language". It changes every day.

Haykinson on his involvement with the L.A. Times' wikitorials project. Great post, detailing lots of non-obvious mistakes the LAT made, and some good advice.

A new API; Chinese gov. draws on Wikipedia

2 interesting news items.

1. There's going to be a generalized webservice API for wikipedia (awesome! and about bloody time) -- this is buried in a less important news story about new integration between Wikipedia and KDE, a desktop environment for Linux.

2. China's state-run Xinhua news agency (wikipedia article) is reporting on a new project that will "allow the public to input and edit all the historical documents dating from ancient times through 1911 when the Republic of China was founded."

"'The operation will be similar to the Wikipedia,' a popular Web-based free content encyclopedia written by volunteers, said organizer Lu Jun, president of the China Culture Research Society."

Hard to tell exactly what's going on here -- the documents already exist, and are presumably of historical significance; why should they be publicly edited? Are people just going to be cleaning up after the scanning process? Or will the documents (perhaps they're old histories themselves) be starting points for a more thoughrough, modern analysis, like public domain documents form the foundation of some wikipdedia entries? Or will there be a lack of public editing, or forced "volenteers", and the Chinese gov. is just using "wikipedia" as a buzzword? (It's worth mentioning that there's already a Chinese-language wikipedia with over 10,000 articles.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

An anonymous user edits the beginning of the Music article:

Music was invented in 1961 by mick jagger, who came up with the idea of putting sounds together to make what he called "tunes", "chords" and eventually, he invented "songs" music was great to start with, bob dylan joined in a year later, he was pretty cool, the beatles kind of fucked it up a little bit, but that didn't matter, because in 1965, the velvet underground formed, soon followed by jethro tull and led zeppelin, music peaked in 1969-1971, and basically, everyone's been tying to outdo led zeppelin III and Stand up by Tull, but that's obviously impossible. The sex pistols and the clash fucked it right up in 1977-78, but it was inevitable, the last nail in music's coffin was "MTV", a cruel implement of propaganda made by capitalists, satan and the man, music crawled to a halt, and then some twisted psychopath invented techno music and pop-punk hybrids like greenday. Music officially ended in 1984 when "frankie goes to hollywood" released "relax", music hasn't been made for 21 years now, and we can only listen to old zeppelin albums, wear flowers in our hair, make blue jeans into flares with big triangular patches of red fabric, walk around barefoot, pretend it's 1969 and hope that some day music will return, but there is no sign of this happening just yet.

It lasted 2 minutes.

Alright, another entry in the wikihistory animation contest -- not a greasemonkey script, but a javascript extention that works in IE, Firefox, Opera, Safari, etc: BetterHistory

The others have seen major revisions and bugfixes, so I'll list them all together. (All can animate page changes; I'll touch on some other features.)

  • Wikipedia Animate
    Greasemonkey. Fits nicely into the Wikipedia interface.

  • WikiDiff
    Greasemonkey. Slick interface.

  • Aniwiki
    Greasemonkey. Lots of features: a graphical timeline; data showing number of reverts, changes, contributing editors; highlighted changes in each animation frame; heavy customizability; etc. Runs a little slow on my (slow) mac mini.

  • BetterHistory
    Javascript. Works in any modern browser, including IE.

I've got the flu, so updates might be a bit infrequent this week.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

New entry in the wikipedia animation contest. Greasemonkey script. Lots of features, but slow on my machine. (Waxy'll announce a winner tomorrow.)

Pretty good Wikipedia article in Time Magazine.

Good Wired magazine article from March.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The L.A. times suspended the "wikitorials" project after it got flooded with obscenities. (Everyone was, it turns out, right.)

[Steve Outing, senior editor with the journalism think tank Poynter Institute] said Wikis "are most suited for factual information where the content can become accurate because of the power of the intelligence of the group."

"Trying to do that with an opinion piece doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense," Outing said. "People with competing views would just try to get their particular viewpoint published and someone would go in and change it."

Fair summation. There were plenty of other problems with the Wikitorials model, but I think that was the biggest one. (Ernest Miller points out how much the edited editorials sucked.)

One problem thus far unmentioned: the wikitorials page propogated as a short-term web meme, with a smaller ratio of first-time visitors to repeat-visitors. First time visitors are less invested in the site and thus more likely to goatse it -- it's not a coincidence that the obscene pictures started right after wikitorials got posted on Slashdot.

In fact, it's one of the chief challenges facing the best-known Wiki, Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia where any visitor can add, change and erase someone else's entry.

Some contributors have attempted to impose their personal viewpoints -- for instance, by replacing an article on abortion with the word "murder" written 143 times.

*Sigh.* It's true that the abortion article periodically gets replaced with "Murderers!" etc. It's happened twice in the last two days alone. But check the history and you'll find that the overwhelming majority of the time, the murder page has lasted less than two minutes before being replaced with the article again.

Wikipedia has challenges -- solvable challenges, mostly along the lines of libertarian political bias, reluctance of professors to participate, etc. -- but total article deletions aren't one of them: nobody wants their work deleted, and so vandals bring the weight of a thousand vigilantes against themselves.