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Submission + - A tale of greed, influence peddling, and blood-stained money 1

metasonix writes: It may sound overdramatic, but it also describes this new Wikipediocracy post about Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, and his little-noticed and very deep ties to former UK prime minister Tony Blair. And their common ties to repressive regimes in central Asia and the Middle East, to conflict-of-interest Wikipedia editing, and to money — large sums of it. Wales even married Blair's former diarist and PR person, almost as if he were "using" her to assure his connections to powerful people in the UK. All of this is well-documented but almost never publicly discussed. No one can ever call Wales a "great philanthropist" again without some laughter from the cheap seats.

Submission + - How Dinosaurs Shrank and Became Birds->

An anonymous reader writes: Discoveries have shown that bird-specific features like feathers began to emerge long before the evolution of birds, indicating that birds simply adapted a number of pre-existing features to a new use. And recent research suggests that a few simple changes — among them the adoption of a more babylike skull shape into adulthood — likely played essential roles in the final push to bird-hood. Not only are birds much smaller than their dinosaur ancestors, they closely resemble dinosaur embryos. Adaptations such as these may have paved the way for modern birds’ distinguishing features, namely their ability to fly and their remarkably agile beaks. The work demonstrates how huge evolutionary changes can result from a series of small evolutionary steps.
Link to Original Source

Submission + - The Sexists at the Top of Wikipedia

Andreas Kolbe writes: Many reasons have been put forward for Wikipedia's Gender Gap. This analysis says that co-founder Jimmy Wales and ex-Wikimedia Foundation head, Sue Gardner, are to blame for Wikipedia's poor software design, which has allowed the earliest group of users (men) to hold and maintain power, resulting in only 10% participation by women.

Submission + - The prominent journalist who "can't have" a Wikipedia biography

An anonymous reader writes: This week, the Wikipediocracy blog has run a strange item that no one has ever discussed before, so far as I can tell: that fact that tech journalist Cyrus Farivar ran a small hoax article on Wikipedia, plus edited his own biography, way back in 2005. In what appears to be an act of revenge, and directly contravening Jimmy Wales's own stated preferences, Wikipedia insiders fought to delete Farivar's biography and keep it deleted. I would have to agree that Farivar is clearly notable enough to have a bio, hoax or no hoax; is Wikipedia's administrative class really this petty? (This goes with a previous blog post about a world-famous "babe model" who is also "not permitted" to have a profile on Wikipedia.)

Comment Re:It's the citing of hoaxes that's a bigger conce (Score 1) 186

Well said. Here is another example of Wikipedia re-writing history with the new, Wikipedia-based version, being regurgitated by Associated Press, among many others. Never mind that an innocent basketball player was defamed.

The Bhutanese Passport hoaxer, by the way, also worked on other "projects" that promptly infected Google's "Knowledge Vault", like all these Wikipedia hoaxes do.

Some of these hoaxes have entered academic literature. In such cases, Wikipedia actually destroys knowledge.

Comment Re:Wikipedia has exactly one problem... (Score 3, Interesting) 186

Wikipedians do seem to operate on the assumption that existing content, even if completely made up, is somehow superior to any recent change, as though content gained legitimate merit and factuality simply by being in Wikipedia. There was a concrete example of this in the edit history of the Thoreau case mentioned in the Washington Post article. The hoaxer had made up a reference to make their nonsense stick. When the hoaxer later himself tried to delete the hoax again, another Wikipedian REVERTED them, saying, "Rv; the information is referenced; if you say it's wrong, prove it." Just because the content had been on Wikipedia for a few months, it was assumed it must be correct. Discussed in more detail here.

Submission + - How many hoaxes are on Wikipedia? No one knows.... 2

An anonymous reader writes: The Washington Post's Caitlin Dewey has written a lengthy feature covering one of Wikipedia's most intractable problems: carefully inserted hoax information that is almost impossible to detect. Dewey's investigation starts with the recent discovery of the nonexistent Australian god "Jar’Edo Wens" (which lasted almost ten years), and discusses a Wikipediocracy post about a recent experiment by critic Greg Kohs, in which 30 articles received cleverly-chosen minor falsehoods. More than half survived for more than two months. Included is also a chart showing that editing participation in Wikipedia has "atrophied" since 2007. It is quite rare to see a feature in a major media outlet as critical as this, of Wikipedia and its little-known internal problems. Especially on the heels of a very favorable CBS 60 Minutes report. As Kohs says, “I think this has proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it’s not fair to say Wikipedia is ‘self-correcting,’”

Comment Re:Anyone who believes Wikipedia (Score 1) 264

I believe quite a bit of development work has gone into Wikipedia Zero (and into mobile generally, which is the Wikimedia Foundation's major growth sector, as desktop pageviews are going down). At present, the WMF staff and contractors page shows one Director of Mobile Partnerships, and four mobile partner managers. I don't know how much developer time Wikipedia Zero currently claims. There is also a project to get Wikipedia articles to subscribers via SMS. ("The Wikimedia Foundation added that it partnered with the Praekelt Foundation, a South African nonprofit with expertise in text messaging, to develop the necessary technology for the project.") Of course, SMS delivery seems like the worst possible format for article delivery, in terms of enabling a reader to assess a Wikipedia article's sourcing.

Comment Re:Anyone who believes Wikipedia (Score 1) 264

It's debatable. I appreciate there are two ways you can see this, but I believe band-aids like this are self-serving and ultimately slow progress towards that "eventual" point down. I'd rather see the Wikimedia Foundation putting their weight (and millions) behind AccessNow and EFF on this.

Comment Re:caveat emptor (Score 2) 264

The school had a multi-million-dollar advertising and legal budget, and created a chilling effect. At one point, they even got government websites warning about the school censored.

Maheshwar Peri and other journalists who went up against them took a tremendous personal financial risk. As the Newsweek article makes clear, they were sued repeatedly, and had to defend each case. See also Siddhartha Deb's story: Siddhartha Deb’s Publishing Odyssey, ‘Why I Took On Arindam Chaudhuri’.

The stark truth is that Wikipedia was part of the problem here, not the solution. This is in part due to Wikipedia's own chilling atmosphere towards critics, a topic discussed right now on Jimmy Wales' talk page.

Whistle-blowers taking on an admin run a significant risk of being sanctioned themselves under some pretext like "battlefield conduct" or "incivility".

Comment Re:Positive Comment (Score 1) 264

It's a band aid that ultimately benefits Wikimedia more than users, just like the equivalent Facebook Zero programme. A source that is as error-prone and vulnerable to manipulation as Wikipedia shouldn't be the only source people in these countries have access to.

They should at least have access to a broad range of news outlets, Google Scholar and Google Books. Zero-rated programmes diminish rather than increase the chances of that happening, perpetuating rather than ending the digital divide and treating people in the developing world as second-class citizens that are fed crumbs from the first world's table.

Comment Another take on the same story ... (Score 3, Informative) 264

can be found in this article by Mridula Chari on Wikipedia bans editor for consistent bias in favour of Arindam Chaudhuri's IIPM. Includes some more details on goings-on in the Indian-language Wikipedias (Marathi etc.)

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein