Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Top-down: not how we roll.

There are some big software changes coming: Flagged Revisions and Auto-Trust.

Flagged revisions will make it possible to improve the quality of heavily-trafficked articles until they're super-reliable and well-written. Hopefully. (Sighted versions and quality versions are two possible paths.)

Auto-trust (which is a name I just made up) will give you more information about the reliability of each individual word in an article. Hopefully.

The Wikiquality brainstorming page is a place for figuring out how to implement this stuff without killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

* * *

It's kind of a delicate time, but a few jarring notes have sounded -- for example, a major British paper published a rather terrifying "scoop" that Wikipedia would basically stop being a wiki.

The piece is wrong. But Andrew Lih has some real concerns about how the changes are being pushed through:

What raises my concern is that this wiki page, created for "brainstorming", was made available just days before the New Scientist article was published, and it seems the publication has taken it as gospel as to what will happen. I’m not aware of how many people have seen or vetted this idea.

Another UK paper has published an article with a similar air of inevitability (minus the scary errors, this time), which makes Lih more convincing.

Is the Foundation intentionally cultivating this air of inevitability? It's been a year and a half since jimmy announced that stable versions were coming soon -- and that if they didn't happen, wikipedia had some serious problems. Have the powers at the foundation gotten sick of watching the community sit on its hands about this topic? I know I have. But ideally, top-down isn't how things should work around here.

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In other news, the Wikimedia Foundation is moving its offices to San Francisco from Florida.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Thais use two systems for telling the time: the 24-hour clock and the traditional Thai six hour clock.

Hey, cool. I just found out that my city has a pretty active community wiki.

Sleepwalking murder

The daily telegraph (the most popular newspaper broadsheet (thanks, martin) in britain) has run a completely incorrect article about wikipedia. Here's the lede:

Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia compiled by computer users, is to stop people from editing entries after a series of questionable updates cast a shadow over its accuracy and reliability.

Ordinary users will no longer be able to edit information and to see those changes appear instantly on the screen.

Under plans being considered they will have to submit changes to a team of “trusted editors” who would then decide whether to update the entries.

This is, of course, complete nonsense. Possibly the telegraph is referring to the "stable version" plan, which an actual journalist has written about here: "English readers are likely to continue to see the latest version of an entry, with a page that has been certified as vandalism-free by trusted editors available via a link." (The article also talks about how the trust metric is being integrated with mediawiki. Cool.)

I wouldn't be quite this pissed off if I hadn't taken the trouble to write a very long comment on the article page, which the telegraph decided not to approve for posting. Update: They've posted it. I think it was just a delay.

I got used to seeing incorrect stories about wikipedia a couple years ago. But at this point, the largest paper in britain should be getting this sort of thing right. If you want to ask for a correction, contact

Thursday, September 20, 2007

On September 17th, Jimmy Wales starts an article about a famous restaurant.

2 hours later, somebody tags the article -- not for deletion, but for speedy deletion, calling it spam.

The next revision removed the tag, and the current article looks good, but jesus. Speedy deletion is the quick guillotine intended for articles on which there can be no debate, articles that are unambiguously junk. If this is the type of treatment Jimmy Wales gets...

Addendum: it's healthy for wales not to be treated like a monarch. But he does get cut more slack than regular users.
Addendum 2: It looks like the story's more complex. Geoffrey Burling has the details.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A day in the life of an article. And the followup:

I waited a few days for the deletion storm to pass and attention to wander, then as quickly as I could I restored the history and trimmed out the advertising speak myself. The article has sat completely unmolested since then, apparently a perfectly fine article on a perfectly fine subject. It took me _four minutes_ to fix it up nicely according to the timestamps. There must be umpteen thousands of such articles sitting in the deleted versions bin, probably never to be rescued. It's very disheartening.

Oh noes!

The mainstream media has beaten me to the punch -- the WaPo mentioned WikiDashboard, "a quick way to find the most active editors of an article". I knew about it! I swear! I just didn't post about it in time!

Here's a fuller explanation.

The Washington Post on Wikipedia's interplay with the 2008 presidential campaign. They've got the wikipedia culture down pretty well, too.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What with the Ignore all Rules explanation and the Editors matter essay, it looks like there's momentum in the right direction.