Tag Archives: Wikipedia

Beautiful visualization of Wikipedia discussions on article deletions

straight AfD sample

s-shaped AfD sample

spiral-like AfD sample

At notabilia.net, Dario Taraborelli, Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia and Moritz Stefaner put together a neat visualization of the 100 longest Article for Deletion (AfD) discussions. Each time a user joins an AfD discussion and recommends to keep, merge, or redirect the article a green segment leaning towards the left is added. Each time a user recommends to delete the article a red segment leaning towards the right is added.

Developer position available in SoNet at FBK

The group I lead (SoNet at FBK, Trento, Italy) is looking for a developer. Python and web programming are the key skills we are looking for.
See the call at ec.europa.eu/euraxess. Feel free to contact me if you have any question!

The SoNet research unit focuses its research on modeling social networks, analyzing their evolution in time and which incentives and strategies are needed in order to keep them lively and successful. The main focus at present it modeling sociality inside Wikipedia.
The successful candidate will support researchers of the group by writing Python and/or Java programs in order to test research hypotheses, and by creating simple web sites where research results are visualized.
Salary offer will be approximately Euro 19.000 before tax per year but can be increased based on experience and skills of the candidate.

Scopophobia of Jimmy Wales

The previous images is a screenshot from Wikipedia about “Scopophobia” defined, in a 1906 journal, as “a fear of seeing people or being seen, especially of strange faces.” ;)
Note: Jimbo Wales big face is on top of every Wikipedia page in these days, asking donations. Actually I think his message is really touching so please consider in donating to Wikipedia.
(via morail tweet who retweeted Schmelkes)

Fact checking in the time of Web

In the time of Web, news come much faster than years ago. Can few journalists under harsh deadlines of hours really check factual assertions in order to determine they are true? I guess the question boils down to two different ones: (1) is a timely fact-checking possible? (i.e. what is really happening, for instance, in the Niger Delta for oil?) and (2) if this is possible, can few journalists from their offices check if what is mentioned in a certain “report” is really happened?

The issue (fact-checking) is not new of course but can be dated back to the first newspaper. What is new is the fact we now live in a global world and the Web let news to spread faster and faster.

I made a short investigation to see if there is any user-generated, bottom-up, web2.0sque attempt to fact check in the time of Web. Of course there is. Following a list of what I found:

1. FactCheck.org and FactCheckEd.org, two attempts by Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. FactCheck.org is a non-partisan, nonprofit website that describes itself as a “‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.”
2. WikiFactCheck.org, a proposal by Andrew Lih, an associate professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism and author of “The Wikipedia Revolution: How a bunch of nobodies created the world’s greatest encyclopedia”. In a blog post he explains why he believes a wiki is perfect for the task of decentralized fact-checking.
3. Truth-o-meter by PolitiFact.com. PolitiFact.com was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 2009 for “its fact-checking initiative during the 2008 presidential campaign that used probing reporters and the power of the World Wide Web to examine more than 750 political claims, separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters.”
4. The fact checker project by the Washington Post. This is a more traditional attempt but made available in the wild on a public website. During 15 months, Michael Dobbs have checked some 200 claims and statements relating to the presidential campaign, and received 18,000 comments, many of them vehemently disputing his verdicts. He used Pinocchios as markers of un-truthiness.
5. Fact and Reference Check project by Wikipedia. Wikipedia itself has a WikiProject about this important issue. The purpose of this project is to verify facts in Wikipedia by multiple independent sources. Basically there are templates that anyone can add to articles so that these articles end up in categories such as Category:Wikipedia articles needing factual verification, Category:Articles lacking sources, Category:Articles needing additional references Category:Articles lacking reliable references or Category:Articles with unsourced statements.

UPDATE 2010/11/18: Thanks to a comment by sergio maistrello about factcheck.it, I came to know the following ones, thanks Sergio!

Do you know of more attempts? You are very welcome to add them in the comments. Thanks!

Quote: Remember, that time is money.

I was checking The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism book by Weber few days ago. I first checked it years ago when I was reading The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age, a book by Pekka Himanen which build on Weber’s ideas to show how the Web and Internet and Information and software have changed how (some of) us think about work. Very interesting book.

However in the Wikipedia page for The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism I found a quote by Benjamin Franklin cited by Weber.

Remember, that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labor, and goes abroad, or sits idle, one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent, or rather thrown away, five shillings besides. […] Remember, that money is the prolific, generating nature. Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on. Five shillings turned is six, turned again is seven and threepence, and so on, till it becomes a hundred pounds. The more there is of it, the more it produces every turning, so that the profits rise quicker and quicker.

Now I know who I have to blame if I feel guilty when I think I’m not working hard enough ;)
On a side note, I think we can now empirically test if Weber hypothesis is true: do protestants really use “capitalistic” concepts more than non-protestants? One way could be to do something like the great blog of OkCupid does for different subsamples of its large population. See some gorgeous example on OkCupid blog

Citation needed

The world can be divided in 2 classes: those who understand this XKCD comic and those who don’t.

If you are in the second class and want to move in the first class, you can read the page “Citation needed” on Wikipedia ;)
(credit: the image is from XKCD, an amazing webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language I suggest you to read. Every comic is licensed under a Creative Commons License so that it is legal to reproduce it here, yay!)

Nazis and Norms in Wikipedia

Joseph Reagle finally published his book Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia (2010, The MIT Press). It has a foreword by Lawrence Lessig and praises by Jonathan Zittrain, Clay Shirky and Jimmy Wales. Wow!
The first chapter is titled “Nazis and Norms” and start with the following epigraph:

Show me an admin who has never been called a nazi and I’ll show you an admin who is not doing their job. —J.S.’s Second Law

which sort of resembles Godwin’s Law:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

Note for myself: it is good to start a book with a strong, emotional point (in this case Nazism) in order to get a grip on the reader from the very first lines.
Ok, now I need to reserve some time to read the book by Joseph Reagle. A pity the book is not released under Creative Commons so that I could download it and print it straight away.

Dead-tree 12 volumes book of all Wikipedia changes to page “The Iraq War”

Amazing project.
“The Iraq War: A Historiography of Wikipedia Changelogs” is a twelve-volumes book. It contains all the changes to the Wikipedia article on the Iraq War. The twelve volumes cover a five year period from December 2004 to November 2009, a total of 12,000 changes and almost 7,000 pages.
It contains every change, from small typo fixing, to important changes up to vandalism edits such as when someone erases the whole article and just writes “Saddam Hussein was a dickhead”.
The Iraq War: Wikipedia Historiography
The author, James Bridle, explains on his blog that:

In a world obsessed with “facts”, a more nuanced comprehension of historical process would enable us to better weigh truth, whether it concerns the evidence for going to war, the proliferation of damaging conspiracy theories, the polarisation of debate on climate change, or so many other issues. This sounds utopian, and it is. But I do believe that we’re building systems that allow us to do this better, and one of our responsibilities should be to design and architect those systems to make this explicit, and to educate.

One of the ways to do this might be to talk more not only about history, but about historiography. History not as a set of facts, but as a process, and one in which, whether we agree or not with the writers, our own opinions and biases are always to be challenged.

Wikipedia (…) is not only a resource for collating all human knowledge, but a framework for understanding how that knowledge came to be and to be understood; what was allowed to stand and what was not; what we agree on, and what we cannot.

As is my wont, I made a book to illustrate this. Physical objects are useful props in debates like this: immediately illustrative, and useful to hang an argument and peoples’ attention on.

and concludes with

And for the first time in history, we’re building a system that, perhaps only for a brief time but certainly for the moment, is capable of recording every single one of those infinitely valuable pieces of information. Everything should have a history button. We need to talk about historiography, to surface this process, to challenge absolutist narratives of the past, and thus, those of the present and our future.

George Orwell said “He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.” Now, for the first time in history, we have the possibility of controlling present, past and future together, thanks to Wikipedia.

(Credits: I discovered the project via an email by Dror Kamir in the very interesting mailing list of Critical Point of View (CPOV) Wikipedia Research Initiative (Critical Point Of View is a clever play with one of the pillar of Wikipedia that is Neutral Point Of View)

Two images (released under Creative Commons) of the book:
The Iraq War: Wikipedia Historiography
The Iraq War: Wikipedia Historiography

And the entire slideshow:

Edits of Feminism in Wikipedia in time

Top 50 Editors in Feminism articles in Wikipedia and their editing patterns visualized in time (from 2002 up to 2009).

The image is from “The Feminist Critique: Mapping Controversy on Wikipedia” (pdf), a report prepared by Morgan Currie for the new media masters program at the University of Amsterdam. The document is 49 pages but don’t be afraid: it is very interesting and the last 20 pages or so are just a copy and paste of raw data and tables used for the report.
The image embedded above is just one of the many thought-provoking images and graphs.
All the scripts used for producing the report and the graphs are available as free software thanks to Papyromancer who wrote the software and released it on github. Great!