Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Jimmy Wales: Today's NYTimes article "gets it exactly backwards".

I don't completely agree. The focus of the article was off -- protection and semiprotection are non-issues, and not particularly important policies -- see previous post -- but the main thrust, that the encyclopedia has a more established structure now, seems correct. It's just that that structure is still largely informal, even if it's effective. This angle was too complex to explain in a newspaper article, so they glossed over it.

(It's worth repeating that this structure is strongest in the most heavily trafficed areas of wikipedia and weaker in the more specialized areas (which, collectively, probably get 20 times the traffic of the popular areas because they cover so much more ground. I still agree with Wales's suggestion from a couple months ago that wikipedia's structure needs to be more local -- that administration should be divided into "regions" covering specific topics.)

Wikipedia gets 2 columns, above the fold, on the front page of today's New York Times.

The article itself is nuanced examination of how wikipedia works (with an alarmist headline) -- about semiprotection and other ways editorial control is emerging from the mist (the other ways dwarf semiprotection by orders of magnitude, but they're organic and harder to explain, so semiprotection gets the headline).

2 notes:

1. The media loves stories about how look at that ! wikipedia's not anarchy now! But it never was particularly anarchic -- the constraints of the medium (no physical contact, for example; and no permanent erasure) made it one of the few working examples of anarcho-syndicalism -- which is to say, it was never structureless; it always had the structure of social interaction. (Social scientists are going to be studying wikipedia's germination decades from now, trying to figure out what parallels they can draw with human society (and especially early human societies, before most of the political constructs we're familiar with existed).)

2. Articles like this are going to attract lots of new editors. But I'm a little worried those editors will come in with notions that WPedia's a churning sea of edit wars and agression -- all the Times articles that mention acrimony and link to high-profile pages like Christina Aguilera might have the effect of normalizing stuff like that. Wikipedia is mostly peaceful. This is all by way of saying: I hope the newb-welcoming efforts are attended to (they seem to be). They're the wiki equivalent of an education system.

Update: I read the article in print and got a completely different impression of it than I did reading it on a screen. Revised a little.

The List of problems solved by MacGyver has grown to immense proportions.

Lifehacker: How to contribute to wikipedia

Friday, June 16, 2006

Black ski masks and puppies. (I have no love for the ALF, but occasionally they're understandable.)

Mark Pilgrim has a great essay about why he's leaving Apple -- specifically, on the advantages free software has over proprietary software: in this case, the short-term profit drive of private companies created problems with data migration that linux doesn't have.

Is there an analogy to free vs. proprietary content?

Forlorn hope is a military term that comes from the Dutch verloren hoop, which should be translated as "lost troop" although in Dutch it can also mean "lost hope". In the days of muzzle-loading muskets it was most frequently used to refer to the first wave of soldiers attacking a breach in defences during a siege. (See Cannon Fodder.)

In The Oregon Trail, characters with more money are generally considered easier to play. This can be considered historically unrealistic, as many professionals (like those in the Donner party) could not aptly adapt to the wilderness surroundings.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Dashanzi Art District" is the informal name of a part of Beijing that houses a thriving artist community, among 50-year old decomissioned military factory buildings of unique architectural style. It is often compared with New York's Greenwich Village or SoHo, but faces impending destruction from the forces driving Beijing's urban sprawl.

"Oversight" -- a new user class with only a handful of members -- allows page revisions to be erased without a developer having to dig around in the metaphorical wires.

It's probably necessary (for legal reasons and to protect admins from real-world nuisances), which is a shame; I'm a little worried about the long-term effects of giving anyone that much power. (Short-term, no worries: even assuming the 16 users with oversight were inclined to abuse their power -- a strange assumption -- they're swamped with more minute issues.)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Nonsense verse is a form of poetry, normally composed for humorous effect, which is intentionally and overtly paradoxical, silly, witty, whimsical or just plain strange.

(Bonus: How do you translate the Jabberwocky poem?