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.
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.
Harold Dumbacher writes: Few things seen on Wikipedia aggravate its users more than the annual fundraising banners. Yet millions of people continue to contribute, seeming to think that Wikipedia will "go offline" if they aren't given more donations. Yet as this new Wikipediocracy blog post reveals, the Wikimedia Foundation is rolling in dough — $53 million in net assets as of this year (that's actual hard sitting-around currency, currently put into various investment vehicles). Meanwhile it only costs about $2.5 million to actually keep Wikimedia project servers online and handling user traffic. The rest of the WMF's annual donations go for "staff salaries, travel and miscellaneous". And evidently, many people are growing disgruntled with this ongoing state of affairs, even Wikimedia staff who benefit from it.
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.)
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,’”
This is the fruit of a long-standing investigation into IIPM's manipulation of Wikipedia, the blind eye turned to it by other administrators, and the story of admin Wifione. One blog post on Wikipediocracy helped expose it: Indian Fakers Teach Wiki-PR
There was also an extended forum thread on the subject:
Indian fakers faking again
Andreas Kolbe writes: Recently, "ArbCom", Wikipedia's highest court, banned an administrator account that for years had been manipulating the Wikipedia article of a bogus Indian business school – deleting criticism, adding puffery, and enabling the article to become a significant part of the school's PR strategy. Believing the school's promises and advertisements, families went to great expense to send sons and daughters on courses there – only for their children to find that the degrees they had gained were worthless. "In my opinion, by letting this go on for so long, Wikipedia has messed up perhaps 15,000 students’ lives," an Indian journalist quoted in the story says. India is one of the countries where tens of millions of Internet users have free access to Wikipedia Zero, but cannot afford the data charges to access the rest of the Internet, making Wikipedia a potential gatekeeper.
It was only the Wikimedia Foundation's inability to get along with its own user base that saved it from implementing completely failed code and possibly wrecking their own encyclopedia.
An anonymous reader writes: Wikipedia's pro-Jewish bias has been discussed in Wikipedia-criticism circles for years, but today the Wikipediocracy blog ran a item relating to it that will attract controversy: it proves that English-language Wikipedia is heavily biased in favor of Israeli and Jewish subjects, and against Palestinians. And it starts with very disturbing examples — Wikipedia biographies of Israeli and Palestinian children who were killed in the endless civil war. Specifically, articles about Palestinian children who were killed by Israelis are almost guaranteed to be deleted from the "encyclopedia of record", while articles about Israeli children killed by Palestinians receive "special protection".
Andreas Kolbe writes: The latest financial statements for the Wikimedia Foundation, the charity behind Wikipedia, show it has assets of $60 million, including $27 million in cash and cash equivalents, and $23 million in investments. Yet its aggressive banner ads suggest disaster may be imminent if people don't donate and imply that Wikipedia may be forced to run commercial advertising to survive. Jimmy Wales counters complaints by saying the Foundation are merely prudent in ensuring they always have a reserve equal to one year's spending, but the fact is that Wikimedia spending has increased by 1,000 percent in the course of a few years. And by a process of circular logic, as spending increases, so the reserve has to increase, meaning that donors are asked to donate millions more each year. Unlike the suggestion made by the fundraising banners, most of these budget increases have nothing to do with keeping Wikipedia online and ad-free, and nothing to do with generating and curating Wikipedia content, a task that is handled entirely by the unpaid volunteer base. The skyrocketing budget increases are instead the result of a massive expansion of paid software engineering staff at the Foundation – whose work in recent years has been heavily criticised by the unpaid volunteer base. The aggressive fundraising banners too are controversial within the Wikimedia community itself.
An anonymous reader writes: A truly disturbing Wikipediocracy report describes possibly one of the worst defamation jobs in Wikipedia's history: a claim that Boston College basketball player Joe Streater was involved in a point-shaving scandal during the 1978-79 season. Not only was Streater not even a member of the team at the time, this "subtle vandalism" was repeated by news organizations such as Yahoo Sports and the AP wire service. Inserted by an anonymous IP address in 2008, it was not removed until last week, when a sports blogger pointed it out. Once again, Wikipedia gets a fact so wrong, it might have ruined a man's life. And the journalists who cheerfully repeated this Wikipedia hoax have yet to be criticized for encouraging Wikipedia "citogenesis".