Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Friday, December 09, 2005

More than a century after his death, some people claim that Norton was, in actuality, the Emperor of the United States.

World War III (detailed)
World War IV (not so much)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

At the outset of the first Gulf War in 1991, a Washington, DC pizzeria was one of the first to know something was happening, as the event was marked by a flurry of pizza deliveries to The Pentagon.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Wales and Seigenthaler were on NPR, too.

Will the government regulate Wikipedia? (Or will it have to stop calling itself an encyclopedia?)

(Update: probably not. But IPs might have to make some changes.)

Seigenthaler brought up a new point in his CNN debatge with Wales.

Where I’m worried about this leading next year: we’re going into an election year. Every politician is going to find himself or herself subjected to the same sort of outrageous commentary that hit me and hits others. I’m afraid we’re going to get regulated media as a result of that, and I tell you, I think if you can’t find it -- both fix the history as well as the biography pages -- I think it’s going to be real trouble and we’re going to have to fight to keep the government from regulating it.

Siegenthaler's right that election years can wreak havok on online communities (I saw it happen to Metafilter), and while wikipedia weathered the 2004 elections fine, it's roughly an order of magnitude more popular now.

The question, of course, is not whether wikipedia will become useless (it won't) or whether its credibility will be compromised (it will -- though it's about time people understood the site for the collective playground it is). The question is whether vandals will kick up enough of a storm that politicians will take action (or vice versa? :p ). This is in some ways a convergence between the old world and the new: most politicians are over fifty and can't be expected to have an intuitive feel for room-with-500-people-in-it online interaction. Will they get pissed off enough about vandalism to impose controls on, at the very least, the way wikipedia describes itself?

Even if it's nothing more than that, it would suck. As I've said before, Wikipedia has a structural contradiction (or perhaps a fine line to walk). In order for people to care enough to put in high quality edits, they have to feel like they're contributing to a grand project, not an I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-An-Encyclopedia; but it's helpful if readers don't think of the site as an exact equivalent of paper encyclopedias -- they have to critically examine articles, figure out possible reasons they read the way they do.

CNN debate between Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia founder) and John Seigenthaler Sr. (Wikipedia libelled)

No anonymous article creation

I haven't commented on this before because, to be honest, I don't think it'll make much difference to most Wikipedia users. Whether it will help prevent libel and vandalism remains to be seen.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A great idea combining wikipedia's anthole/beesnest/collectiveIntelligence philosophy with an expert-based topdown approach:

If I were a reference publisher, a library association, a university, a media company, or a foundation, I’d take Wikipedia as raw material and vet entries, perhaps even charging for the service: On demand or on the basis of traffic and links, I’d go in and vet already-written pieces and bless that version of it. Then maybe I’d publish a book from it. Subsequent changes would be unvetted until and unless I chose to or the audience asked me to review them.

It would be nice to see information flow the other way, too -- blessed Wikipedia pages could be tagged to that effect.

Also worth pointing out: this is where the "commercial use is OK" clause of the Wpedia content licence is essential. The first ones on the boat were link farmers, but monetizing wikipedia like this is going to be very big and very useful (and, thanks to Wpedia's nonprofit status, it won't skew or bias wikipedia itself).

(A Venture Capitalist calls this Red Hat Wikipedia, but that's a little misleading (if incredibly pithy) -- a single organization could only review the tiniest fraction of wikipedia's entries.)


Sunday, December 04, 2005

A message board devoted solely to airing negative critiques of wikipedia

This NYTimes article reveals that the wikipedia article rating system will probably roll out in January:

Still, [Wales] said, he was trying to make Wikipedia less vulnerable to tampering. He said he was starting a review mechanism by which readers and experts could rate the value of various articles. The reviews, which he said he expected to start in January, would show the site's strengths and weaknesses and perhaps reveal patterns to help them address the problems.

I was born 23 years ago today (December 4, 1982), which makes me exactly the same age as China's constitution. I share a birthday with Samuel Butler, Francisco Franco, and Tyra Banks.

Ten Wikipedia hacks (A broad definition of "hack" -- these are more like tips. Still, useful stuff.)