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Comment Coverage in Wikipedia's community newspaper (Score 4, Informative) 104

For detailed background, see coverage in the Wikipedia Signpost, Wikipedia's community newspaper:

Geshuri steps down from board

Media coverage of the Arnnon Geshuri no-confidence vote

Also check the previous two weeks' News & Notes for how the no-confidence vote came about.

Submission + - Wikipedia's unhappy 15th birthday

Andreas Kolbe writes: Just as Wikipedia is about to turn 15 years old, relations between the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) board and the volunteer community have reached a new nadir. As Bill Beutler reports on his insider blog, The Wikipedian, it began with the removal of volunteer editor Dr James Heilman from the WMF board. Heilman is a popular figure, noted for his work on Wikipedia's medical articles, and the news of his expulsion was greeted with shock and disbelief by the almost 2,000 volunteers who had voted for him. Then it transpired that the WMF is working on a secretive "Knowledge Engine" project funded by a restricted grant from the Knight Foundation. The move, which has raised worries about the possibility of undue Google influence on WMF affairs, is unpopular even among the Foundation's paid staff. Their confidence in the board's strategic direction and transparency has plummeted, as Wikipedia's community newspaper, the Signpost, reports. Lastly, the WMF announced the appointment of Arnnon Geshuri, former Senior Director of HR and Staffing at Google, to the WMF board. Volunteers and ex-WMF board members have criticised the appointment, pointing to Geshuri's past involvement in anticompetitive hiring agreements at Google, which led to a class-action lawsuit resulting in a $415 million settlement. They want Geshuri gone.

Submission + - Meltdown at Wikipedia (wordpress.com)

Andreas Kolbe writes: As Wikipedia is about to turn 15 years old, relations between the volunteer community and the Wikimedia Foundation board have reached a new nadir. First, Dr James Heilman, an immensely popular volunteer noted for his energetic efforts to make Wikipedia's medical articles more trustworthy, was expelled from the board, causing wide-spread protests. Then it transpired that Wikimedia is working on a secretive "Knowledge Engine" project funded by a restricted grant from the Knight Foundation, leading to calls for more transparency about the project. Lastly, a few days ago the board announced the appointment of Arnnon Geshuri, former Senior Director of HR and Staffing at Google, to the Wikimedia board, provoking a further loss of confidence. The volunteers are pointing to Geshuri's past involvement in anticompetitive hiring agreements at Google, which led to a class-action lawsuit resulting in a $415 million settlement. They want Geshuri gone.

Comment Re:Competition (Score 1) 125

Isn't that just a bit of regurgitated propaganda, assuming facts not in evidence (i.e. that liberal arts majors, dogs and Republicans would follow the rules)?

Here is what happens in real life:

manipulation in the service of commercial agendas,

hoaxes,

malice, and

blackmail,

along with "skewed information, unattributed material, and potential copyright violations".

Wikipedia throws such people out today, and they're back tomorrow, with a new pseudonymous sockpuppet account.

Wikipedia lists over 70,000 blocked sockpuppeteers, and that list does not include some of the most serious cases, where individuals have used literally hundreds of sockpuppet accounts. (For reference, the English Wikipedia has around 3,000 steady contributors making at least three or four content edits a day.)

Comment Re:Competition (Score 1) 125

Wikipedia sure needs a competitor, though to me this isn't a good reason. It's simply because monopolies in information transmission are a bad thing, and because Wikipedia is wide open to anonymous manipulation. For all its talk about transparency, Wikipedia is the first encyclopedia where you are not told (and are not supposed to ask or find out) who's written the thing. There are often good reasons for this (some of the harassment editors experience is vile – rape threats, death threats), but the one thing it is not is "transparent".

Comment Re:Wikipedia will delete the info as "not notable" (Score 1) 125

That comparison to housing associations strikes a chord ... :)) It's one of the main attractions of Wikipedia: you get to define what X is FOR THE ENTIRE INTERNET. It's a particular type of personality that jumps at that chance (even though it often turns out to be a greasy pole).

Comment Re:I run The Wikipedia Library Program: This is wh (Score 4, Interesting) 125

Well, current partners of the Wikipedia Library project include Adam Matthew, BMJ, British Newspaper Archive, Cochrane, Credo, De Gruyter, DynaMed, Elsevier ScienceDirect, FindMyPast, HighBeam, HeinOnline, JSTOR, Keesings, Loeb, MIT Press Journals, Newspapers.com, OCLC, Oxford, Past Masters, Pelican Books, Public Catalogue Foundation, Project MUSE, RIPM, Royal Society, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Royal Society of Chemistry, Sage Stats, ScotlandsPeople, Questia and Women Writers Online. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

That's a lot of VP positions to fill ... ;) The fact is this came about quite differently. Volunteers had for years complained about lack of access to JSTOR et al.; Jake did something to remedy that. And he started out doing it as a volunteer himself. Credo, HighBeam and JSTOR were first; Elsevier came aboard later, as one of many. This was in no way Elsevier's initiative.

Comment Re:Wikipedia is an encyclopedia project ... (Score 1) 125

Elsevier is just one of many publishers involved here, along with JSTOR, Cochrane, BMJ, Oxford University Press, etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... Have you ever tried to write a Wikipedia article without access to the best sources? Would you like to rely on such an article? Or more to the point, would you want to be treated in a hospital whose doctors made a point of not reading any research published in non-OA journals, and who read no books they had to paid for?

Comment WikiGate? (Score 5, Informative) 125

Calling this issue "WikiGate" reflects a rather single-minded focus.

A few days ago, we learned that there was an extortion ring operating in Wikipedia – see http://www.theregister.co.uk/2... or http://www.independent.co.uk/n... and many others.

A few months ago, we learned that a hoax article had survived for ten years on Wikipedia, and that its content had come to be cited in numerous places, among many other hoaxes: https://www.washingtonpost.com... see also http://wikipediocracy.com/2014...

A few weeks prior to that, we learned that an administrator had managed to manipulate Wikipedia's articles on a bogus Indian business school over a period of years, with an Indian journalist estimating that Wikipedia had messed up thousands of students' lives by lending its brand's supposed credibility to the school's misleading propaganda: http://www.newsweek.com/2015/0... and http://scroll.in/article/71429...

Each of those would have deserved the title WikiGate more than this non-issue, which if anything actually helps improve Wikipedia's reliability.

Comment Wikipedia is an encyclopedia project ... (Score 3, Interesting) 125

Wikipedia has many, many problems, but this is not one of them. An encyclopedia project has to reflect the current state of knowledge, regardless of where it's published. You can't just leave out all the bits that aren't Open Access.

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 (quantamagazine.org)

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.

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