Posts Tagged 'wikipedia'

Britannica to turn into Wikipedia and to become just as unreliable

The past few years have seen the rise of user-contributed content, with Wikipedia being a high-profile example of this phenomenon. The appearance of Wikipedia entries atop the list of sites returned by search engines, and the corresponding appearance of these entries in places like term papers, has triggered a debate regarding the reliability of its content. Leading the charge against Wikipedia has been The Encyclopedia Britannica, which relies on expert, edited contributions for its content. Last week, however, Britannica announced what might be viewed as the unthinkable: it’s implementing a tightly controlled system that just might allow users to generate some of its content.

The new policy was announced via a set of two posts in the Britannica blog. The posts make it very clear that Britannica is not embracing the wiki model to any significant degree. The role of the Britannica staff in policing its content will remain: “We are not abdicating our responsibility as publishers or burying it under the now-fashionable ‘wisdom of the crowds.'” The majority of its content will continue to be generated by experts and subjected to editing. The experts and editors, in Britannica’s view, “can make astute judgments that cut through the cacophony of competing and often confusing viewpoints.” This willingness to interject expert judgement is what will ostensibly continue to separate it from Wikipedia, which is accused of settling, “for something bland and less informative, what is sometimes termed a ‘neutral point of view.'” (link)

Canadian Government starts wiki war

A skirmish has been raging for days over the online Wikipedia biography of Industry Minister Jim Prentice, with anonymous government workers airbrushing out controversial details or buffing Prentice’s image, while others just as quickly revised the revisions.

So intense was the battle that Prentice’s biography was locked Thursday by Wikipedia administrators “due to vandalism.”

Literally hundreds of changes had been made to Prentice’s biography over the past week, with many originating from IP addresses that were traced to Industry Canada computers at the department’s Queen Street address in downtown Ottawa.

“Even though someone from within Industry Canada thought they were making these changes anonymously – and they are, in the sense of not knowing the precise individual – it was not very difficult to trace back the fact these changes were coming from within the department,” Michael Geist, a professor at the University of Ottawa, said Thursday in an interview. (link)

People badmouthing you on Wiki? Sue them

One thing the Internet has taught us: if you want to see a defamatory/embarrassing/ridiculous claim about yourself or your business cleaned from the tubes, the one thing you don’t want to do is file an ill-advised lawsuit against a site like Wikipedia. What once was known only by a few is suddenly known by the world. Barbara Bauer, who runs the Barbara Bauer Literary Agency, looks like she’s set to learn that lesson the hard way after suing Wikipedia for an article that called her the “Dumbest of the Twenty Worst” literary agents and said that she had made no book sales at all.

The controversy stems from a few brief statements regarding Bauer’s track record (none of which remain on the site at this time). These statements weren’t simply dragged from the ether; Bauer was included on a list of the twenty worst agents back in 2006 and that list was widely circulated in the blogosphere. The controversy was discussed at the time by writer Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who called Bauer a “well-known scam agent” and the “dumbest of the twenty worst.” Even before that, writers were complaining about her agency in various discussion forums. (link)

China allows access to English Wikipedia

Chinese authorities appeared to have lifted a block on the English-language version of online encyclopedia Wikipedia, but politically sensitive topics such as Tibet and Tiananmen Square are still off limits.

Internet users in Beijing and Shanghai confirmed on Saturday that they could access the English-language version of one of the world’s most popular websites, but the Chinese language version was still restricted.

While searches of random topics such as “Johann Sebastian Bach” and “dim sum” brought up English-language articles, sensitive words such as Tibet were met with a message that the browser was unable to connect to the Internet.

The move comes after International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspectors told Beijing organisers that the Internet must be open for the duration of the 2008 Olympics and that blocking it “would reflect very poorly” on the host country. (link)

Jilted lover airs dirty laundry, Wikipedia founder plays defense

Virtually anyone can edit an entry on Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia. But its founder is finding it’s not so easy to cover his tracks after a messy breakup with a TV personality and a dustup over his expenses began playing out on the web.

It’s not the first time that Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia’s de facto leader, has found his behaviour questioned – especially since no subject appears too arcane for dissection by Wikipedia’s passionate community of users. The latest episodes, however, reverberated beyond the usual diehards.

First, a former lover – political pundit Rachel Marsden – published steamy and embarrassing online chats with Wales, and dumped his clothes on EBay.

Marsden is already well-known in Canada but more for her personal life than her politics. (link)

Google vs. Wikipedia: first punch thrown

The web contains an enormous amount of information, and Google has helped to make that information more easily accessible by providing pretty good search facilities. But not everything is written nor is everything well organized to make it easily discoverable. There are millions of people who possess useful knowledge that they would love to share, and there are billions of people who can benefit from it. We believe that many do not share that knowledge today simply because it is not easy enough to do that. The challenge posed to us by Larry, Sergey and Eric was to find a way to help people share their knowledge. This is our main goal.

Earlier this week, we started inviting a selected group of people to try a new, free tool that we are calling “knol”, which stands for a unit of knowledge. Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it. The tool is still in development and this is just the first phase of testing. For now, using it is by invitation only. But we wanted to share with everyone the basic premises and goals behind this project.

The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. Books have authors’ names right on the cover, news articles have bylines, scientific articles always have authors — but somehow the web evolved without a strong standard to keep authors names highlighted. We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content. At the heart, a knol is just a web page; we use the word “knol” as the name of the project and as an instance of an article interchangeably. It is well-organized, nicely presented, and has a distinct look and feel, but it is still just a web page. Google will provide easy-to-use tools for writing, editing, and so on, and it will provide free hosting of the content. Writers only need to write; we’ll do the rest. (Google)

Wikipedia wins privacy lawsuit

Three plaintiffs were each seeking 69,000 euros (100,000 dollars) in damages for invasion of their privacy after their homosexuality was revealed on the website, which is written and edited by thousands of anonymous contributors.

But a judge rejected their demands in a ruling reached on Monday, arguing that “the Wikimedia Foundation’s responsibility … has not been clearly established,” a decision welcomed by the foundation.

“The decision is very clear and we appreciate the fact the court acknowledges our role as an Internet host, rather than an editor,” said Florence Devouard, chair of the Wikimedia Foundation’s board. (story)


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