Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Friday, May 09, 2008

Marketing, damnit!

The ideas behind the open source movement are very powerful.

How powerful?

So powerful that if a competent marketing team -- people who ordinarily churn out boring beer commercials -- are asked instead to create a commercial for Linux or Wikipedia, they can make something mindblowingly inspiring without breaking stride.

That doesn't happen very often because open source projects are broke. But when it does happen, you get stuff like this 2003 ad:

link, if you can't see the embed

After watching that, I want to marry the open source movement and have its children. This is the kind of power your typical corporation has to shape public perception; usually it's spent trying to get you to increase your detergent consumption.

Now some Texas design students have created a mock ad campaign for Wikipedia, complete with magazine ads, a T-shirt, posters, etc. It so utterly fucking rocks.

The artistic vision:

"Many people tend to view Wikipedia as an unreliable source of information because anyone can edit entries on the website.

Our concept was to present an everyday person as an "expert" on a specific subject in order to show that whether the information comes from a university professor or from an avid gamer, it is still reliable.

Each piece shows a straight view of each persona and a mind map of their thought process. We felt this approach humanizes the experience of Wikipedia."


Andrew Lih hits all the bases on the Moller affair -- and will presumably do a kick-ass radio show tomorrow. llywrch has also left some illuminating comments, both here and at Andrew's blog.

I avoided talking about the PR consequences of keeping Moeller on the staff, and about his essays, because I wanted to stick to stuff that can't be argued about.

Suffice it to say that I think the grounds for dismissing Erik are overwhelming even without considering PR. With PR, the board would have to be raving mad to keep him on. So I'm a little taken aback by some comments suggesting he should stay.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Ohio Country

I ripped Concharto a new one on tuesday, both here and via email.

Now they've actually taken some of my advice! Cool. (Hiding the sidebar improves things about a thousandfold.)

The end of Erik Möller (and of the mailing lists?)

I don't read danny wool's blog anymore. But nobody else is talking about an incredibly troubling image and some correspondingly troubling writing posted by wikimedia foundation bigwig Erik Möller.

By nobody, I mean nobody. Moller is one of the most powerful people in the foundation (or was, until this happened), but there's been no mention of this whatsoever on the very busy mailing lists -- total, deafening silence. Impossible silence, actually.

Say it with me: "When you censor discussion forums, people stop using them." This is not China; there are other outlets. (In this case, traffic flows to Danny Wool, which is probably not what the list moderator intended.)

(Update: apparently the Foundation list is not being moderated. Color me surprised.)

This whole episode makes me sick at heart about many things, including the foundation's ability to choose good leadership. I think I'm going to take a short wikivacation.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Hypergraphia, Pyromania, Pyrophilia, Trichotillomania. (Chorus! ♬We didn't start the fire... ♫)

Via this category, via whoever reached this blog by searching for "Pyrophilia wiki". They probably just wanted to find the wikipedia article, but I'd really prefer to believe they were looking for a pyrophilia-themed wiki.

Best name for a logical fallacy ever.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Concharto is a geographic wiki for documenting historical events -- think wikimapia times ten.

It also has a pretty noble goal:

When Leo Tolstoy wrote “War and Peace” in the 1860’s, he sprinkled it with whole chapters of rants against the historians of the day. His complaint was that they viewed history solely as a progression of major events precipitated by “great men”. Instead, he argued, history is a much more complicated progression of cause and effect driven by small events. In one of his more philosophical moments, he proposed applying the scientific method to history, asserting that a complete understanding of an event could be obtained by slicing that event into smaller and smaller pieces, in exactly the same way that a math student performs integral calculus.

While not actually creating a calculus of history, Concharto does attempt to slice history into smaller pieces.

But the interface is confusing and cumbersome in the extreme. It's built on top of google maps, and inherits its interface elements in all of their general-purpose bulk. No, no, no, no, no. You want something that looks like this.

As things stand, the interface imposes so much cognitive drag that the application (which should be awesome, and has plenty of functionality) isn't very fun at all. Here's hoping it improves over time.

(hat tip for the russia map)

Erik Moeller is the Wikimedia Foundation's deputy director and possibly its most powerful member (alongside Sue Gardner, the grownup in residence).

Wikipedia Weekly talked to him last week, but Erik is a fastidiously thorough politician, which makes him a rather boring interview subject. I sat through the whole 40 minutes so you don't have to.

The takeaway: the Foundation seems to be finding its legs. It's paying cheap-ish rent in San Fran, reaching out to the general public (insofar as that exists in silicon valley), and hoping eventually to be known as the Red Cross of information. I'm actually impressed with the way things seem to be going, organizationally. Now get us a stats machine.