Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Saturday, May 17, 2008

You don't fuck with wikinews

Score one for information wants to be free.

Basically, the foundation swatted down Wikinews' editorial independence, killing a story about a foundation bigwig's attitudes toward porn. (This isn't going to endear them to the press.)

(Update: It may be more complex than that. Here's the wikinews discussion; decide for yourself.)

You haven't heard of Wikinews, but they take themselves seriously -- they've interviewed heads of state, etc. Godwin should have known better.

That said, I don't want to take too much joy in wikinews's oldstyle prickliness, just because it sort of sucks to have this kind of infighting between wikiorgans. To be honest, I miss Jimmy having a bigger role; he'd have been able to smooth this over.

(Is the foundation trying to push erik out quietly? I'd sort of hoped they were. If they're not...seriously, guys. Your loyalty is admirable as a personal trait. But erik — forget what I think about him — is a millstone around the foundation's neck. His presence makes it a million times harder to address ways to make wikipedia kid-friendly, ways to get it in classrooms, etc. To address anything, really. Wikipedia runs on good vibes. They're its fuel. That's why Jimmy has been an effective leader, and why Moller throws a spanner in the works.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

One planet, under wikipedia

Google Maps displays geographic Wikipedia articles now!

The map is marked with Ws representing wikipedia articles. The location of each W is determined by the latitute/longitude coordinates on the wiki page.

It's kind of amazing how thoroughly wikipedia has colonized the world. In general, whenever I see an incredibly detailed, obscure wikipedia article, it sort of reminds me of how explorers must have felt when they found almost every corner of the earth inhabited. Wow. There are people here, too?

The problem with this particular application is that some Ws are big and some are small -- and the size seems to depend on the precision of the geotagging. My hometown is tagged superprecisely (down to hundredths of an arcsecond ), which means it's tiny on the map. This building in my hometown is the only W you see when you're zoomed out.

Or maybe that's because the building is tagged in "cityscale" units? Does anyone know?

Update: Google seems to be following Wikipedia's own guidelines, which say (rather imprecisely) that locations should be tagged with a degree of precision appropriate to their size. (Thanks, Pete.)

Previously in mapped wikis...

(Meanwhile, Yahoo maps continues not to integrate with Flickr. Hello? Jerry? Nobody in the public knows about the flickr map. Are you trying to make your company irrelevant? Do you guys have any sort of framework for adding onto applications? Will I see font tags if I view the source?)

Monday, May 12, 2008

This year's Wikimania conference is in Egypt (Alexandria, chosen for the poetic symmetry between Wikipedia and the Great Library). The less poetically inclined were worried about muslim extremism, and the foundation bought a custom security analysis.

The results are in. (Paging past the terrifying stock photography...) Aha. The actual findings:

  1. Don't worry too much; Alexandria is a very safe city. "Holding a conference there should not pose any significant threat to Wikimedia Foundation members attending the conference."
  2. But keep a low profile (i.e. don't rent a Benz?) because Wikimania will draw international attention.
  3. And stay out of the Sinai.

Sounds alright.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

That elusive spark

A methodist pastor says the Church should take lessons from Wikipedia, particularly when creating new ministries.

Of course, lots of people have said that. The "wikipedia model" is easier observed than applied -- you've got to have that animating spark*, or everything collapses.

Wikipedia's spark is the idea of building a central repository for all knowledge, a repository that's free free free, and that's as neutral a reflection of reality as possible. These are ideals that people will sacrifice for. They'll research at the library; they'll clean up vandalism (or feel bad enough to not vandalize); they'll code late into the night.

In other words, Wikipedia works because it's inherently utopian. Religion is inherently utopian, too. If ever there was another place the wikipedia model could be applied, this is it.

* and other stuff too, of course