Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Simulated reality is the proposition that reality could be simulated—often computer simulated—to a degree indistinguishable from "true" reality.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The invention of the cat flap is frequently attributed to Isaac Newton.

However, author Charles R. Gibson, writing about the life of Newton in 1921, recorded that "To this day students at Cambridge are told how there were two holes cut in the door of Newton's chamber: one hole, much larger than the other, for the use of his cat, the smaller one for the convenience of the kitten", but states that this goes in the face of "...a letter written by Newton's assistant [who] gives us the following information, which is direct evidence and not mere hearsay. `He kept neither dog nor cat in his chamber...'"


I was talking to someone about Wikipedia today in person, which I rarely do. And I realized:

I love wikipedia and am constantly intrigued by it. But I really don't give a shit about the Wikimedia Foundation. They only have a limited impact on the nuts and bolts, anyway.

Partly because of the name of this blog, I'd always sort of felt obligated to cover the internal politics -- I wanted it to at least be theoretically possible for someone to get all their w'pedia information from right here (yessir).

Well, screw that. The politics is boring and depressing. It's all the unpleasantness of real life socializing without any of the warm fuzziness.

Remember that study showing that people were more likely to misinterpret email messages, and more likely to ascribe negative emotions to the authors? Something happens with text communication -- the mirror neurons get turned off; the natural social instincts get muted. And when that effect happens at every node of the community web, when a whole bunch of hyperverbal encyclopedists are only connected to each other via letters on screens, things get unmoored. (How else to explain the rise of wikipedia review?)

Anyway. I'm done covering the foundation. My next post will be about generating rock album covers that never existed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

No real PR problems

Tony Sidaway says:

Actually I run a small rss news aggregator that focuses on news about Wikipedia. In my experience our press is overwhelmingly positive. [Emphasis added -- and yeah, tony's right. I've been reading the google news alerts for a couple years. -Ben] Even the gossipier stuff seems to make a much bigger splash within the community and on its peripheries than it does outside--exactly the reverse of my expectations.

Most of the debate outside Wikipedia circles, in the mainstream press, focuses on the reliability of Wikipedia and its appropriateness for various uses. Those are very appropriate topics for debate and we should take it as a huge compliment that a project built completely by untrained volunteers is regarded as comparable in any way to the works of highly educated specialists. We shouldn't lose sight of that utterly remarkable and unexpected achievement.

The fact that we're criticised (and often rightly so) isn't surprising. The fact that we receive so little criticism and have had so few problems, given the open parameters and huge scope of the project, is one of the most amazing facts of Wikipedia's existence. Wikipedia doesn't have any significant PR problems at present.

All the ins and outs of the wikinews/moller thing -- about fifty kilobytes so far. That's the mailing list I know :P

Mike Godwin: "The Foundation has no interest in preventing Wikinews from publishing a story critical of WMF. If you are under the impression the stories were censored because they were critical of WMF, then you have your facts wrong."

So, the idea is that this was a run-of-the-mill libelous article removed* like other libelous articles have been, and for the same reason -- fear of being sued.

But in this case, the person doing the suing would have to be foundation employee Erik Moller, right? I find it unlikely that he'd sue the foundation for failing to hush up wikinews. I freely admit not understanding how lawyers think, though.

* With some ambiguous degree of community involvement. And hey, as long as we're running with this broad a definition, isn't it libel to accuse the article's authors of libel?