Saturday, April 28, 2007

Chaser's war on Wikipedia founder

Chaser's war on Wikipedia founder
Asher Moses
April 26, 2007 - 2:48PM

It was always just a matter of time before Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales had a run-in with The Chaser.

Andrew Hansen, one of five stars of the hit satirical ABC television program, ambushed Wales's question-and-answer session at the conference in Sydney this morning.

Wales had just finished giving his keynote speech at the Hilton hotel, during which he brought the audience of about 150 educators up to speed on the ins and outs of Wikipedia and his newer for-profit venture, Wikia.

He explained how his collaborative online encyclopedia, which has copped significant flack of late over the apparent ease at which anyone can add erroneous and libellous information, was best used by teachers and students - as a source of background information, rather than a quoteable reference.

Given Wales's widely publicised goal of giving "every single person on the planet free access to the sum of all human knowledge", Hansen evidently thought Wales would be a prime candidate for The Chaser's "Mr Ten Questions" segment.

"Ah, Jimmy, um, look I just have 10 questions," Hansen said when he was handed the microphone during the question-and-answer session.

"First, how are you enjoying Australia?

"Second, how do our computers compare to the ones in America?

"Third, why does everyone in IT look so nerdy, yet you look like a daytime soap star?

"Fourth, Mac or PC - do you really give a shit?

"Fifth, there are 1.7 million articles on Wikipedia; how long did it take you to write them all?

"Sixth, Craig Reucassel's a bit unhappy with the photo on his page. Could you upload a better one maybe for him?

"Seventh, my dog is getting some scabs under his chin. I don't know if you can bring him in the number of a local vet?

"Eighth, Jessica Rowe and Peter Overton - will it last?

"Ninth, cracked pepper?

"Tenth, how do you feel about the fact that when I looked you up on Wikipedia this morning I changed your page to say that you were a teenage drug lord from Malaysia?"

In his usual style, Hansen asked each question in rapid succession, pausing to let Wales respond only when he had finished asking all 10.

Wales's nervous, confused facial expressions were a stark contrast to his typically dauntless demeanour, but he attempted to answer some.

His responses were not delivered into the microphone and so could be heard only by those sitting at the front of the room.

"Not such a nerd as I thought - oh well, you got four out of 10. I'll add that to your Wikipedia page thank you," Hansen said before leaving the room.

It was a relatively mild stunt given The Chaser's history; last year, member Chas Licciardello was arrested for attempting to sell fake weapons as official Bulldogs merchandise to fans prior to a game in Kogarah.

He was cleared of the offensive behaviour charge this year by magistrate Joanne Keogh, who said it was obvious the stunt was a joke.

The Mr Ten Questions segment has yet to appear in the current season of The Chaser, but it was a mainstay of the program last year.

Previous subjects include Anthony LaPaglia and Kerri-Anne Kennerly; LaPaglia is the only one so far to answer all 10 questions successfully.

Following Hansen's departure, the question-and-answer session continued as if nothing had happened.

On Monday and Tuesday respectively, Wales spoke at similar seminars in Adelaide and Perth.

Following his stop in Sydney today, Wales will depart for Melbourne where he is scheduled to speak tomorrow at ZINC at Federation Square.

Facts and friction: Wikipedia's quest for credibility

Facts and friction: Wikipedia's quest for credibility
Tuesday, 24 April 2007

In the galaxy of A-list dotcom entrepreneurs, Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales is one of the brightest stars. He's become to the web what Bob Geldof was to famine relief: an almost saintly guru, a visionary who has pooled the talents of many for the greater good.

Last year Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

And that makes him the odd man out among his well-heeled peers. The organisation he co-founded is a registered charity and befitting that status, he eschews the trappings of conspicuous wealth. He's not sitting on a pile of stock options. When he sets off on one of his many proselytising sorties, he reportedly prefers to fly economy. And although he once owned a Ferrari, he now drives a Hyundai.

He's a derring-do do-gooder with a simple if ambitious mission statement.

My goal," he said last month, "is to give a free encyclopedia to every single person on this planet."

That's part of the pitch he'll be making when he arrives in Australia this week on a speaking tour.

The freebie he speaks of is not one of those weighty tomes of knowledge that was the standard reference tool before search engines came along. He's talking, of course, about Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia written and edited by its users.

From its start in January 2001, the site has grown exponentially to encompass about 7 million articles in 251 languages. Every second of the day, Wikipedia's servers are bombarded with between 10,000 and 30,000 page requests.

The US rating agency comScore World Metrix calculates that the combined Wikipedia sites received more than 192 million unique visitors in February, making it the world's sixth most visited website - behind those run by giants such as Microsoft, Google and Yahoo.

Its collaborative structure and its altruistic ideals have won the website many plaudits and awards and - importantly - the financial backing that keeps it going. With more than 75,000 active volunteer contributors ranging from scholars to knowledgeable nobodies, Wikipedia is often held up as a stellar example of how to tap the wisdom of the masses.

But all is not well in the house that Wales co-founded. Wikipedia is going through some painful times. It relies on the whim of donors to stay afloat, the ranks of its critics are swelling and it is facing more competition from other online encyclopedias, which may pull away volunteers, eyeballs and kudos.

Wikipedia is suffering from a credibility crisis. Some - such as the Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger, who left the organisation in 2002 - say the malaise goes even deeper. He describes the organisation as "completely dysfunctional" and is heading for a reckoning.

Buffeted by a string of recent acts of vandalism, sabotage and deceit, Wales seems to be spending more and more time defending Wikipedia and patching the cracks.

Wales, a 40-year-old former futures trader who grew up in Alabama, says he is not unduly worried about the petty acts of vandalism, most of which are quickly fixed by the Wikipedia community.

"I remember several years ago when the story of the week, every week, was some outrageous thing going on at eBay - someone selling their head, someone selling their baby, someone selling their soul," he says.

"And then after a while I think people got used to the idea of people [who] post goofy things and then they take it down. And the stories didn't seem so interesting anymore and so they stopped appearing in the media."

The problem Wales alludes to is not that vandalism happens, but that the press reports what he sees in many cases as nothing more than a scrawl on a wall.

"As long as we've got this massive, public collaborative project to build an encyclopedia there are gonna be weird things that happen. That's basically the cost of doing business."

In a case last month, the biography page of an American comedian called Sinbad was altered to include the "news" that he had died of a heart attack that morning. Word of his demise quickly spread around the net before the hoax was discovered and the entry fixed.

"Well, it was on our site for less than 30 minutes and yet there's been at least 50 news stories about it coming in from all over the world," Wales says, sounding frustrated. "Somebody vandalises Wikipedia and it's not really a news story, right? It just happens and then we fix it and it's not that exciting."

But if you ask Sanger, the man credited with putting the "wiki" in Wikipedia, the root of the problem lies with the unswerving attachment to the principle of anonymity.

Sanger has just launched Citizendium, an online collaborative encyclopedia based on the same wiki structure but with greater editorial control and no anonymous contributions. "The reason I started Citizendium is because something I helped bring into the world [Wikipedia] had a real potential for abuse that bothered me greatly," he says. "Ultimately, I think I owe it to people - if I can - to do something better."

Sanger, who parted company with Wales after what he describes as a "primordial struggle" with elements of the volunteer hierarchy, says Wikipedia's problem is its unflinching commitment to anonymous contributions - "a kind of radical egalitarianism about knowledge".

"As long [as] they hold those two policies as firmly as they do - and I don't see how they can change - they are never going to be able to produce a really credible encyclopedia," he says. "They are always going to have behavioural problems and they are always going to have articles that tend not towards the most authoritative view on the subject but towards the opinion of the most active Wikipedia contributors."

Wales disagrees. He maintains that anonymity underpins the structure of the Wikipedia community. "I think there's basically zero problems that can be solved by eliminating anonymity," he says.

Unfortunately the work of anonymous vandals is not confined to petty pranks. In 2005 Brian Chase, a manager at a delivery service in Nashville, played a trick on a co-worker by posting a fabrication on Wikipedia.

The entry linked John Seigenthaler, a respected retired journalist, free speech advocate and political adviser, to the Kennedy assassinations.
The entry stayed unchallenged for 132 days, even after it had been checked by a Wikipedia volunteer who edited the entry three days after it was posted to correct a spelling mistake.

"I am interested in letting many people know that Wikipedia is a flawed and irresponsible research tool," Seigenthaler wrote in an article after discovering the slur.

In February this year Wikipedia was hit by another scandal facilitated in large part by the cloak of anonymity.

One of its most prolific contributors, who purported to be a theology professor, turned out to be a 24-year-old uni drop-out. Writing under the screen name Essjay, Ryan Jordan contributed over 20,000 Wikipedia entries, some of which were based on information culled from books such as Catholicism for Dummies. Worse still, he was also a member of a high-ranking Wikipedia committee responsible for vetting other people's work.

After both incidents, changes were made to Wikipedia's rules of engagement to reduce the risk of these types of issues cropping up again.
Wales says his team is also working on ways to reduce the number of these incidents in part by giving Wikipedians better tools to deal with these incidents.

"I think the thing that's foremost is the forthcoming feature of the software, what we called stable versions which will allow the community to flag particular versions of articles as being non-vandalised," he says.

Those new measures came too late for history department faculty members at Middlebury College in the US. In January, they passed a resolution forbidding students from using the online encyclopedia for academic assignments.

It might have been one faculty in a small university but it generated a lot of coverage and debate about the academic quality of Wikipedia's entries and the checks and balances used to weed out the errors.

Wales says the Middlebury experience is an isolated case. For the most part, he says, educators are positive towards Wikipedia.

"If you say 'well we're going to tell our students not to use Wikipedia', that is like telling them not to listen to rock'n'roll music. You're just kidding yourselves. It's an incredibly valuable resource," he says.

"The right approach is to teach students about the strengths, the limitations and why you shouldn't cite Wikipedia as a source in a paper. To teach them what is the role of an encyclopedia in the research process."


Jimmy Wales's life reads like a Hollywood script - which is probably why there's said to be a couple of books and a documentary in the works.

Born in 1966 in Huntsville, Alabama, where his father worked in a grocery store, Wales began his education in a small private school which he later described as "an Abe Lincoln type of thing".

Called the House of Learning, the school was run by his mother and grandmother and it's where the Wikipedia thing started. "I just spent many, many hours just poring over the World Book Encyclopedia," he told a C-Span interviewer in 2005.

Wales studied finance at university before going to work in Chicago as a futures and options trader. He quit after he had "made enough money".

"I'm not a wealthy person but I'm a person who lives within my means," he said.

That's the potted history of a boy from the Deep South who made good, much of which can be found on Wales's Wikipedia entry. You'll also find on the entry a reference to his attempt in 2005 to airbrush his biography.

Under the subtitle "Controversy" there's reference to what his erstwhile partner Larry Sanger described as an attempt "to rewrite history". In particular, references to Sanger as "co-founder" were removed. Even today, Wales refers to himself as the "founder" of the online encyclopedia.

Wales was also accused of modifying reference to a company called Bomis which he started about 1998 and of downplaying the observations that it carried soft-core porn content.

Sanger says Bomis began as a primitive form of online collaboration where users organised so-called "webrings", a collection of websites based on a particular theme.<

He says in 2000, the Bomis Babe Report, which he described as being like an early blog, was launched. "And it gave news about naked ladies - a little bit about porn stars, a little bit about celebrities who took their clothes off, that sort of thing."

Sanger, who was hired by Wales as an employee of Bomis, says he had nothing to do with this side of the business. "I was just the encyclopedia guy."

Later on, Bomis launched a pay product called Bomis Premium which Sanger says was a "softcore porn website" which "didn't actually feature depictions of sex - except between girls - but it did have anatomical displays".

Wales says that although he still holds shares in Bomis, "it's pretty much dead". He describes the Bomis phase as "a dotcom boom era fun time to be in the business because there were all kinds of crazy ideas going on".
Those "fun times" probably included the occasion Wales posed on a yacht wearing a peaked naval captain's hat, flanked by two female models dressed in what looks like undies and Bomis-branded T-shirts.

"In fact [Bomis] was a pretty much general search engine with everything from Thomas Jefferson to pop culture," Wales says.

While Wales admits to the fine-tuning, he says there was no controversy about it in the Wikipedia community until "the media caught wind of it and thought it was a big deal".

"In my biography there were just errors and they needed to be fixed," he says.

Jimmy Wales will speak at in Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne this week. For more details visit:

Why You Shouldn't Trust Wikipedia: Senator Chuck Norris

Why You Shouldn't Trust Wikipedia: Senator Chuck Norris
Monday April 23, 2007

Norris is famous for many reasons. His unbeatable karate certainly tops the list, highlighted in his extensive movie career, and his popular TV show is yet another reason to know the man's name. But his political career...well, let's just say it hasn't taken off.

Nevertheless, search Wikipedia for information on Nebraska (it's the 16th biggest state in the union!) and you'll learn that Chuck is the state's Republican senator. Don't tell long-time senator and possible 2008 presidential candidate Chuck Hagel that, however. I hear his karate is renowned.

Most Web 2.0 Users Are Really Just Couch Potatoes

Most Web 2.0 Users Are Really Just Couch Potatoes
April 22, 2007
Bruce Nussbaum

A study by Bill Tancer, an analyst with Hitwise, which measures Web 2.0 audiences, shows that only a tiny fraction of people using social media actively participate. A miniscule 0.16 percent of visits to YouTube actually involve people putting a video up on it, according to his online surfing data. All the rest are visits by people watching the videos of that tiny fraction.

Only two tenths of one percent of visits to Flickr are to upload new photos. Again, everyone else is watching. Just how many users are doing user-generated content?

Wikipedia shows much higher active partipation--4.6% of all visits are for editing. But think a moment--that is still a very small fraction of the total number of people using Wikipedia.

Tancer presented his data to the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Visits to Web 2.0 sites constitute 12% of all web activity, according to Tancer, up from 2% two years ago. It's soaring.

So, the question is--who is shaping the conversation? These numbers suggest that only a very, very small number of people actively create content in social media. Nearly everyone watches.

So are we really just reinventing TV, with folks pretty much sitting back passively (like couch potatoes)? Is YouTube just another NBC or Fox TV network?

Could be. These YouTube and Flickr numbers are even worse than the 1% Rule--for every 100 users of social media, only ten actively participate, and only 1 actually creates something. Back in July, 2006, the ratio of creators to consumers on YouTube was 0.5%. Now it is 0.16%. Many more people are drawn to YouTube to watch than to create.

Mark Vanderbeeken, over at Experientia, links to a vnunet story that quotes Barry Parr, an analyst at Jupiter Research, saying: "Consumer created content is now the big leagues, but we still don't understand it all that well. It's a reasonable (and old school) rule of thumb that only one per cent of any site's readers will post content on it, but that's plenty."

And Ted Shelton, vice president of business development at Technorati, says that "a small percentage of a huge number of users can still amount to a significant impact.Two per cent of a billion people online is still 20 million people writing blogs on a regular basis."

Shelton has another point. "Very few of those 20 million people actually worry about getting paid for what they do. People under 25 are much more likely to blog, and contribute content of other kinds, so this may be a phenomenon that is increasing."

Another point: These huge social media sites may no longer define what people are doing in social networking. I'm guessing that people are shifting their own conversations toward more direct,intimate social media, such as blogging. Numbers already show that young people are beginning to move away from MySpace as it grows bigger and more commercial for smaller, closer social networking sites.

The conversation economy is still iterating.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Fisk on Wikipedia and Web hate campaigns

Fisk on Wikipedia and Web hate campaigns
Internet, posted: 22-APR-2007 11:01

"There is no end to the Internet's circle of hate," writes Robert Fisk in his article, Caught in the Deadly Web of the Internet, published in the Independent. Fisk, in case you've missed it, is a well-known British journalist whose critical pieces on Western policies the Middle East especially are seen, to put mildly, as controversial.

Even if you don't agree with Fisk, read that Independent story. In it, Fisk recounts the experience of Taner Akçam, a Turkish historian and writer. Akçam faces prosecution in Turkey for writing about the Armenian Genocide at the beginning of the century in that country - yes, the Turks are that sensitive about it still.

However, due to vandalising of Akçam's Wikipedia entry, which accused him of being a member of a terrorist group, he was detained by Canadian border police on February 17 this year. This is acknowledged in the Wikipedia entry, which can now only be edited by registered users.

Based on the detention and what US Homeland Security officials told him, Akçam now believes he can't travel overseas anymore because of the Internet hate campaign against him.

If you think about it, would you take your chances with border police after YouTube videos labelling you a "former terrorist"?

That's serious enough, but the Fisk also mentions Wikipedia's role in the the case of Hrant Dink, an Armenian-Turkish journalist who was murdered in January this year. Apparently a false quote attributed to Dink spurred his murder.

Fisk's own Wikipedia entry carries this notice on top:
Editing of this article by unregistered or newly registered users is currently disabled to prevent sock puppets of currently blocked or banned users from editing it. If you are prevented from editing this article, and you wish to make a change, please discuss changes on the talk page, request unprotection, log in, or create an account.

While it's easy to say "don't trust anything you see or hear on the Internet", reading Fisk's story, it appears that the Canadian and US authorities did just that. And why shouldn't they? Wikipedia styles itself as an encyclopaedia, not a libel and defamation publisher.

In the past, attacks on people tended to be contained to Usenet postings and later on, websites. Now however we have "the wisdom of the crowds" on sites like Wikipedia and the ability to easily assemble images, audio and video that appear very believable - and, Google finds it all.

Countries, corporations and individuals alike can be targeted on the Internet, and it doesn't take much effort either. Just pander to people's prejudices, and they'll believe you.

It's the Internet Samizdat cutting both ways. You will find the truth but also falsehoods, sometimes very damaging ones. That's the core of the issue Fisk's article points to: how do you know which is which any more?

By Juha Saarinen

Wayne Crookes sues Google, Wikipedia

Wayne Crookes sues Google, Wikipedia news:- Wayne Crookes, the Green Party of Canada's ex-financier, is in effect trying to sue the Net.

He's going after the Wikiedia, Google and, a Toronto site, claiming he's, "suffered an immense amount of frustration and emotional distress" over postings on Google's, within an entry under his name in Wikipedia, and on, run up by Michael Pilling [right], an Ontario and federal Green Party activist.

Some 15 others may also have been targeted by Crookes, I understand.

"Mr Crookes seems to be trying to unwrite history and I don't think that's fair for the people of this country," Pilling told p2pnet. "He was a central figure in the growth of the Green Party. His actions were highly controversial and if we have freedom of speech in this country, people should be allowed to talk about them."

The lawsuit against Google was filed in British Columbia Supreme Court on April 16, says the Globe and Mail, going on:
It states that last summer, six anonymous defendants put libellous comments on Blogspot's The Green Compost Heap under passages labelled 'Wayne Crookes' and the 'Gang of Crookes.' Wayne Crookes, a Vancouver businessman and Green organizer, is suing three Internet sites for libel.

The suit against Wikipedia was filed on April 17. In this case, an article on Mr. Crookes written under the pseudonym of 'Indyperson' repeated some of the comments that appeared on The Green Compost Heap. The lawsuit against was made in May, 2006, and stems from postings in early 2005.

"I resent very much irresponsible statements made very recklessly. I'm determined that the people who have acted so irresponsibly will find that there are consequences," The Globe and Mail has Crookes saying. "I hope that the outcome is that people will realize they have obligations and that they will be forced to accept responsibility for their actions. The larger the organization, the greater the expectation that they will be held accountable for their actions."

Pilling found himself on the receiving end of a libel suit after a contributor posted an article on about then Green Party financier Crookes, who later claimed parts of the posting disparaged him and were untrue.

Pilling edited it, only to have the reader repost the content shortly afterwards and when Crookes objected again, Pilling explained how Crookes could use the site to contribute his own point of view.

"Democracy requires open debate. The purpose of my site is to give everyone an opportunity to express their position, and hope people start listening to each other," said Pilling at the time. "Instead, I was served with a lawsuit."

According to the Globe and Mail, Dermod Travis, a former communications director for the Green Party who's Crookes' spokesman, said the defendants "chose not to respond appropriately when put on notice that they [had] crossed a line".

"The American headquarters of both Google and Wikipedia declined to comment as they had not yet been served with the writ," says the story.

"Until 2003 the Party had little capacity to organize itself between elections, and as late as 2000 the party had no persistent infrastructure, and was based out of the same office as the Green Party of Ontario," says the Wikipedia.

"It received substantial loans from Wayne Crookes, a BC businessman who had previously also made large donations to the Green Party of British Columbia. Crookes has launched a lawsuit against Google, Wikipedia and the Canadian political blog site for allowing supposedly libelous statements to be made about him."

Stay tuned.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Local man sues Wikipedia

Local man sues Wikipedia
Apr, 19 2007 - 12:20 AM

VANCOUVER/CKNW(AM980) - Anyone who has looked up a word on the internet has likely been directed to the site Wikipedia. But a Vancouver businessman is suing the company that runs the site for libel.

Wayne Crookes have filed a suit in BC Supreme Court alleging the Wikimedia Foundation which runs Wikipedia, and several web writers who uses aliases online, have libeled him. Crookes claims articles that appeared on the website were dishonest and abused power and were intended to hurt his reputation.

Crookes runs a title search company base in Vancouver and also has strong ties to the Green Party of Canada.

In the lawsuit, Crookes says he was never given the apology he asked for, and libelous writing continued to appear on the website. He is seeking unspecified damages.

Binns page on Wikipedia battle ground of guerrilla editing

Binns page on Wikipedia battle ground of guerrilla editing
CanWest News Service

Political forces on Prince Edward Island have been waging a propaganda war on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, by hijacking the website's biography of P.E.I. Premier Pat Binns., the self-styled "free encyclopedia" that anyone with an Internet connection can make contributions to or edit, purports to offer factual, impartial accounts of its subjects.

But in recent months the Wikipedia entry for Binns has turned into a battleground between Conservatives, Liberals and special interests on the island in advance of a looming provincial election.

Since January, the biography for Canada's longest serving current premier has been written and rewritten dozens of times, mostly by anonymous users, alternately painting Binns as either the saviour of P.E.I., or the source of its ills.
At the height of the Wiki-editing war this month, one anonymous opponent even posted a libelous allegation. This followed months of guerrilla editing in which Binns was hailed, without factual substantiation, as having presided over "record economic growth," and "record investments in health care, education and community development."

At one point, the biography also stated that Binns was "a friendly and approachable premier." Yet, no sooner were nice words written about him than nasty ones were edited into their place.

The only participant in the war of words to sign his name to any of the edits has been Stephen Pate, a disability activist, who weighed in with a critique of the P.E.I. government's treatment of disabled people.

Internet: the problem with Wikipedia

Internet: the problem with Wikipedia
by nbleven
Tuesday 17 April 2007

Wikipedia is today’s number 1 online encyclopedia, and everybody on the internet can get free access to it. Registering an account is free, publishing an article is free, Wikipedia users are not bothored by ads, because the online encyclopedia decided not to put any ads. But Wikipedia is also a leading source in information. Even if sometimes some informations are not correct, everyone can post whatever they know and Wikipedia is a great way to get to meet other people and build an entire network of online friends.
Wikipedia’s staff is quite important in matter of size, but no one is paid for the time they sacrifice to Wikipedia. Usually, companies starting on the internet do hire volonteer staff but, once they make a considerable amount of money, it usually starts paying some of its staff. At some point, the entire staff is paid. However, that is not how it goes on Wikipedia. As I said, all staff volonteers to work, but that is simply because Wikipedia cannot afford paying their workers.

The only source of income Wikipedia has is donations. Indeed, users on Wikipedia are encouraged to donate some money. The money goes to Wikipedia’s foundation, in which money mainly goes to the site. Donations can go up to a million dollars within a few weeks, but the online encyclopedia cannot ask too much money from its users. Wikipedia also has important donors, who donate quite a good amount of money to the site. Wikipedia must always stay in touch with those donors, in order to make sure that they still keep giving them money.

With 1 million dollars, Wikipedia can only last a few months. If Wikipedia finds itself financially into trouble, their website is at stake. Which means the online encyclopedia can shut down at any moments. 1 million dollars is lavished quickly at Wikipedia; they must pay trials,pay for the maintenance, etc.

Wikipedia has entered the top 10 most visited websites in the world, and its traffic is huge. There is no doubt Wikipedia could make tonsof money if they were willing to make that money. For example, Wikipedia could set up features/advantages to members who pay a certain amount of money on monthly basis. This could make Wikipedia win millions of dollars every month. Though Wikipedia does not want ads on its site, it should resort to ads; they would make a lot of money by setting up some ads.

Wikipedia is a great online encyclopedia; we can share informations, we can learn, we can search for many different subjects, and we can also contribute work to Wikipedia. Its only drawback — and it is a major drawback — is that it is not financially stabled, at its site is permanently at stake if money is not raised on time.

Wikipedia Co-Founder Continues Attack On Wales

Wikipedia Co-Founder Continues Attack On Wales
Monday, April 16, 2007
Adario Strange

It turns out that Larry Sanger’s statements weeks ago were just the first salvo in what is shaping up to be a concentrated campaign against Wikipedia. In a new interview, Sanger lays into UK Education Secretary Alan Johnson who sang the praises of Wikipedia at the recent conference of the National Association of Schoolteachers and Union of Women Teachers in Belfast.

Big mistake Mr. Johnson. Now the wiki-gloves are off!

After learning of Johnson’s comments, Sanger (pictured right) said, “I’m afraid that Mr Johnson does not realize the many problems afflicting Wikipedia, from serious management problems, to an often dysfunctional community, to frequently unreliable content, and to a whole series of scandals. While Wikipedia is still quite useful and an amazing phenomenon, I have come to the view that it is also broken beyond repair.” Scandal? Dysfunctional? Broken beyond repair?! Hey Jimbo, are you really going to take all that? Where are the wiki-cojones? In the name of Shatner vs. Montalban, let’s see some nerd-on-nerd action!

Consider the source

Consider the source
As a matter of fact, Wikipedia isn't always right on LI
April 17, 2007

There's a new kid in Online Encyclopedia Town.

Citizendium is thefirst serious contender to the throne currently occupied by Wikipedia, the historic site that offers a knowledge base of just about anything and everything.

Founded by Larry Sanger, who was instrumental in the construction of Wikipedia, the new service will seek to improve on the Wiki model by requiring contributors to sign their work, add expert editorial supervision and ensure the service's credibility.

Credibility, in fact, is the issue at the nub of the Wiki open-source, free-form phenomenon. As one observer pointed out in an ongoing blog rant on Wiki, "The great advantage of the Wikipedia, which allows everybody to add/edit everything, is also its greatest disadvantage."

Wikipedia has been at the center of a storm of controversy for some months and a subject of debate among journalists, academics and scholars about Wiki's place in serious research. Editors at The New York Times have warned reporters about trusting information contained in Wikipedia; at Newsday, reporters are expected to double-check on information they may glean from Wikipedia.

Supporters of the service admit it's not foolproof, it can be subject to vandalism and it's not necessarily the last word. When Middlebury College in Vermont this month restricted the use of Wikipedia citations, Wiki founder Jimmy Wales concurred, saying, "Students shouldn't be citing encyclopedias. I would hope they wouldn't be citing Encyclopedia Britannica, either."

The most sensational mistake to lie at the feet of Wikipedia was an article suggesting that John Seigenthaler Sr., a former aide to Robert Kennedy, was involved in the assassinations of both Robert and John F. Kennedy. The entry was eventually corrected by the subject, but that didn't stop an aggrieved Seigenthaler from airing his displeasure with the site in a piece in USA Today. It later was learned that the item was posted as a practical joke.

The contentions have forced Wales to implement a policy change for the site, requiring credential verifications in some cases; in other cases, contributors can remain anonymous. But he said they should only be allowed to cite some professional expertise in a subject if those credentials have been verified. More than 1.7 million articles are currently archived in Wikipedia so far, and that's just the English-language entries.

By comparison, Citizendium, the "citizens' compendium of everything," as the founders call it, is in baby-step mode, with 1,330 entries compiled as of Friday.

Sanger's guide for contributors emphasizes that authors "take responsibility for our own work, and we like to think we're a lot morecivil than your average Internet community. If you didn't take our real names policy seriously ... we will permanently ban you from the Web site." "Citizens" will also berequired to maintain biographies on their user pages.

Because we're paid in part to be skeptical, we decided to compare the information provided in Wikipedia on five topics close to the hearts of most Long Islanders with research done by the paper. For a look at how right (or wrong) Wiki got the data, click on the gallery at right.

Internet hosts should be made to pay for libellous statements, suit contends

Internet hosts should be made to pay for libellous statements, suit contends

Special to The Globe and Mail

The hosts of the speed-of-light world of Internet blogs and interactive websites that publish anonymous commentary should be forced to pay when reputations are damaged, says a former Green Party staff member who is suing three such sites.

Google, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia and, a Canadian political website based in Toronto, are being sued in Vancouver in a libel case that could change the way Internet opinion is monitored and published.

Wayne Crookes, a former campaign manager of the Green Party of Canada, said he “suffered an immense amount of frustration and emotional distress” over postings on Google's, a free blog-hosting website, within an entry under his name in Wikipedia, and on, an interactive political forum set up by Michael Pilling, an Ontario and federal Green Party activist.

The lawsuit against Google was filed in British Columbia Supreme Court on April 16. It states that last summer, six anonymous defendants put libellous comments on Blogspot's The Green Compost Heap under passages labelled “Wayne Crookes” and the “Gang of Crookes.”

The suit against Wikipedia was filed on April 17. In this case, an article on Mr. Crookes written under the pseudonym of “Indyperson” repeated some of the comments that appeared on The Green Compost Heap.

The lawsuit against was made in May, 2006, and stems from postings in early 2005.

“I resent very much irresponsible statements made very recklessly. I'm determined that the people who have acted so irresponsibly will find that there are consequences,” Mr. Crookes said.

“I hope that the outcome is that people will realize they have obligations and that they will be forced to accept responsibility for their actions. The larger the organization, the greater the expectation that they will be held accountable for their actions.”

Mr. Pilling, a former research head for the Green Party of Canada, confirmed that he was preparing to defend himself vigorously.

He said he understood why Mr. Crookes was upset, but that the case had wider implications.

“It is a case that could potentially go all the way to the Supreme Court because there is very little on the books in Canadian case law with respect to libel and Internet defamation,” he said.

“As the operator of the site, I'm being held responsible for edits that were made by others either as registered users or anonymous users.

“[Mr.] Crookes seems to contend that even though pages were removed from public view or potentially defamatory words were removed from the page that [as moderator of the site], I'm still liable.”

Dermod Travis, a former communications director for the Green Party who is acting as Mr. Crookes's spokesman, said that the defendants “chose not to respond appropriately when put on notice that they [had] crossed a line.''

The American headquarters of both Google and Wikipedia declined to comment as they had not yet been served with the writ.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Wikipedia Seeks to Bar Office Contributions

Wikipedia Seeks to Bar Office Contributions
by Joal Ryan
Thu, 12 Apr 2007 04:06:01 PM PDT

Yes, Michael Scott has some interesting theories on how to gain the edge in salary talks. No, Wikipedia's not really interested in them.

The online encyclopedia has put its entry on negotiations in semilockdown after users spurred by NBC's The Office began peppering the page with tips that Steve Carell's less-than-sharp pencil-pusher supposedly read there.

"It's definitely the result of that episode," Wikipedia spokeswoman Sandra Ordonez said Thursday.

That episode, titled "The Negotiation," debuted Apr. 5. In it, Carell's Scott confides that everything he knows about the art of negotiation he learned on, um, Wikipedia.

"Wikipedia is the best thing ever," the irony-deficient character declares. "Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject. So you know you are getting the best possible information."

According to the episode, Wikipedia-offered negotiation advice includes talking very, very softly, moving a meeting to another location and letting the other party speak first, no matter how long a staring contest ensues.

None of these tactics were actually found on the site's "Negotiation (process)" page—until, that is, after the episode aired, and after mischievous contributors began adding them, and more.

As first reported by the Associated Press, newly registered and unregistered users have since been barred from making posts.

"It's just a way to prevent people who may have gone to the article because of the show who may not have the best intentions," Ordonez said.

Wikipedia imposed even stricter controls on Sinbad's page last month after a prankster noted on it that the very much alive comedian had died of a heart attack.

At the home office for The Office, meanwhile, the show's powers-that-be did not sound encouraging of any tampering on it or its regional manager's behalf.

"I love going to Wikipedia and finding jokes from Michael Scott," executive producer Greg Daniels said Thursday, "but it would be more helpful if fans could post them before we write the shows."

Take Wikipedia with pinch of salt

Take Wikipedia with pinch of salt
11/ 4/2007

THE online encyclopaedia Wikipedia should be taken with a pinch of salt, a spokesman insisted today.

Wikipedia founder Larry Sanger told The Times it contains "frequently unreliable content" and is "broken beyond repair".

But Wikipedia's UK spokesman David Gerard said critics take it too seriously.

He said: "The problem is that sometimes people take us to be more reliable than we are. If you read it with critical thinking you'll get value out of it. It's not reliable in that you can trust every word."

Wikipedia bills itself as the "free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit". It is an internet phenomenon, publishing information in more than 100 languages and has more than 1.7 million English-language articles.

Its egalitarian nature is the secret of its appeal. Contributors are less likely to be tweedy academics than the office know-it-all who has found an outlet for his obscure passions. Anyone can write about anything.

Famous gaffes, as reported in the UK press, include reports that ex-Wet Wet Wet frontman Marti Pellow had died and the ridiculous story that the Irish town of Mayo had acquired a militia to fight off werewolves.

There have also been cases of "vandalism" where bogus or abusive information has been posted, although errors are removed.


Mr Gerard said: "Every single objection you can think of actually happens and we deal with it.

"Wikipedia is more reliable than it ever was but you can't get away with not thinking. Anyone can edit it."

David Bawden, a senior lecturer at the School of Informatics at London's City University said: "It's not something that you should rely on, certainly, but you shouldn't rely on any single information source.

"It's one of a number of internet resources like Google, MySpace and YouTube which gets seen by people and somehow a momentum builds up.

"It has got more people thinking about information and knowledge and how you get it.

"My approach is, 'it's good but...."'

Mr Gerard said the secret of Wikipedia's success is being "painfully open".

He said: "Instead of controlling stuff we tend to let stuff in and then fix it when it's wrong. You get bad stuff but you get a lot of good stuff you wouldn't get otherwise."


The German Wikipedia site is considered to be far more reliable as more fact-checking goes on, he revealed. He said: "The English site has occasional hiccups in quality but its strengths are its incredible breadth of coverage and it is reasonably up to date."

Mr Bawden said: "Some bits are kept up to date by world experts, others are written by people with a personal view. You should take it as a very useful first resource."

Mr Sanger has launched a similar venture called which promises greater accuracy, according to The Times.

Mr Gerard wishes Larry Sanger luck. He said: "If he thinks he can do it better then that's fine. There's got to be more than one way to do this. It validates the model. We want Citizendium to be successful. We don't want to be the only one."

He sees a bright future for Wikipedia. Mr Gerard said: "We'll probably get more and more popular and wonder how we're going to store this data."

Mr Bawden said: "The Wikipedia idea where everyone contributes to it will be around a lot more. It's something that will stay and retain its importance but I don't think we'll have one single Wikipedia. I think it will split and I think we're seeing that now, with this new offshoot."

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Op-Ed: Wikiphobia: The latest in open source

Op-Ed: Wikiphobia: The latest in open source
Neil Waters
Issue date: 4/11/07
Section: Opinions

It seemed like a no-brainer. Several students in one of my classes included the same erroneous information in final examination essays. Google whisked me immediately to Wikipedia, where I found the source of the erroneous information in under a minute. To prevent recurrences of the problem, I wrote a policy for consideration by the history department, in less than two minutes: " 1)Students are responsible for the accuracy of information they provide, and they cannot point to Wikipedia or any similar source that may appear in the future to escape the consequences of errors. 2)Wikipedia is not an acceptable citation, even though it may lead one to a citable source."

I brought up this modest policy proposal, suitably framed in whereases and be it resolveds, at the next meeting of the department, and it was passed within about three minutes, and we moved on to more pressing business. And that, I thought, was that - a good six minutes worth of work, culminating in clear guidelines for the future. Some colleagues felt I was belaboring the obvious, and they were right. The history department always has held students responsible for accuracy, and does not consider general encyclopedias of the bound variety to be acceptable for citation either. But Wikipedia seemed worth mentioning by name because it is omnipresent and because its "open-source" method of compilation makes it a different animal from, say, the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The Campus published an article on the departmental policy, and the rest, as they say, is history. Alerted by the online version of The Campus Tim Johnson of The Burlington Free Press interviewed me and a spokesman for Wikipedia who agreed with the history department's position, and published an article. Several college newspapers followed suit, and then Noam Cohen of The New York Times interviewed Don Wyatt, chair of the History Department, and me, and published the story. Within a day it received more online "hits" than any other New York Times feature. Another interview followed with the Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo, and additional articles appeared in El Pais in Spain, The Guardian in England, and then in literally hundreds of newspapers in the US and abroad. Along with other members of the History Department, I found myself giving interviews almost daily - to radio stations, newspaper reporters, inquisitive high school students, WCAX television news in Burlington, and even to the NBC Nightly News, which sent correspondent Lisa Daniels to Middlebury to interview me and students in my History of Modern Japan class. A stream of phone calls and e-mails from a wide range of people, from Wikipedia disciples to besieged librarians who felt free at last to express their Wikipedia misgivings, continues to the present. Somehow the modest policy adoption by the History Department at Middlebury College hit a nerve.

Why this overwhelming spate of interest? I can think of three reasons immediately: 1) Timing. Wikipedia has existed since 2001, but it has expanded exponentially, and reached a critical mass in the last couple of years. With over 1.6 million entries in its English language edition, Wikipedia has something to say about almost everything. Its popularity has soared with its comprehensiveness and ease of use, and its ease of use in turn has been enhanced by popularity-driven algorithms; Google lists a Wikipedia article in first or second place more often than not. 2) Passion. There is something exciting about the growth and development of an entity to which anyone can contribute.

At its best, Wikipedia works wonders. Anonymous editors actually improve entries over time, including new material, editing away mistakes, polishing the writing. Accordingly, some of Wikipedia's defenders approach their task with near-religious zeal. But Wikipedia at its worst excites similarly intense passions, because anonymous, non-accountable editors can include, through ignorance or malice, misinformation that may or may not get "fixed." Further, thousands of high school teachers as well as college professors who try mightily to induce a measure of critical thinking in their students' approach to sources for research grow quietly furious because the very ubiquity of Wikipedia tempts people to use it in lieu of other, more reliable sources of information. 3) Scandals. The Wikipedia entry for John Siegenthaler, Sr. in 2004 contained spurious accusations that he was a suspect in the assassinations of both John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. The entry was unaltered for four months (thereafter authors of new entries, but not editors of existing entries, had to register their names with Wikipedia). A Wikipedia "policeman" turned out to have bogus credentials. Sinbad was declared dead (he has since risen again). All this keeps the pot boiling.

In the final analysis, Wikipedia's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Anonymous, unaccountable, unpaid, often non-expert yet passionate editors built Wikipedia, but their anonymity and lack of accountability assures that Wikipedia cannot be considered an authoritative source. And yet it is frequently used as if it were, Wikipedia's own disclaimers notwithstanding. College professors and high school teachers alike need to remember that the impressive computer acumen of their students does not automatically translate into impressive levels of critical thought, particularly when it comes to evaluating the reliability of the new tools at their disposal, and of the information those tools provide. The internet has opened up new highways of information, but we need to know how to spot the potholes.

Neil Waters is Professor of History and Kawashima Professor of Japanese Studies at Middlebury College.

Don't trust on Wikipedia

Don't trust on Wikipedia (by Latuff)
by Latuff
Tuesday Apr 10th, 2007 10:52 AM

Let's go with another dirty trick...
Some of my friends wrote me about the Wikipedia article on me and I'd like to clarify some points. After checking the article, especially "discussion" and "history" sections, you can see it's far from neutral. You will always find someone trying to attach labels like "racist" or "anti-Semite" (surprised?), including Deviantart users, who, unhappy for having comments hidden by me in my DA page and for my criticism against U.S. and Israel, migrate to Wikipedia to release all their anger against me.

And now they've even created a fake biography where it's said that I was "born into a family of 7 in Rio de Janeiro to a Brazilian father and an Argentinian mother" and that "parents separated after my mother moved back to Argentina to marry a Jewish man." And of course, refering to some made up gay affair: "At the age of 34, Carlos and his soon-to-be husband, Javier, traveled to Toronto, ON where they would undergo vows for marriage."

The most interesting thing is that I was NEVER contacted by ANY Wikipedia editor for collecting information about me and my art or at least VERIFY the authencity of such "biography".

The real story is that: NO, I was not born in a family of 7. NO my parents aren't separated (of course the choice for a "Jewish man" by editors was not by accident, as if it could sound extra offensive to me) and NO, I'm not married with men or women. If I had a gay relationship I would have no problem making it public, 'cause I really don't have any problems with gays or lesbians. In fact, I've been a supporter of gay and lesbian human rights.

In short, this Wikipedia article is great for good laughs but NOT for serious information about me and my art. So my advice for you readers and supporters is do not trust in everything you see about me around the Web. If you want ACCURATE information on me and my cartoons, you can start from here:

link 1 - link 2 - link 3 - link 4

If you have any doubt about anything, don't be fooled by anyone, talk right to the artist: latuff [at]

Since the poor guys can't make anything to stop the world flow of anti-Israeli apartheid cartoons, they try cheap dirty tricks like this. Anyway, judging by this "biography", I can say they have a bright future writing screenplays for U.S. sitcoms.

Johnson slapped on wrist for recommending Wikipedia

Johnson slapped on wrist for recommending Wikipedia
Staff and agencies
Wednesday April 11, 2007

The education secretary, Alan Johnson, has come under fire for recommending the use of the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia for schoolwork.
Wikipedia, which launched in 2001, is written by volunteers. Anyone can edit or add to entries, which means the potential for misinformation is huge. In January, the site had roughly 7m entries, in 251 languages.

Mr Johnson described the internet as an "incredible force for good in education" at yesterday's annual conference of the National Association of Schoolteachers and Union of Women Teachers (NASWUT) in Belfast.

"Wikipedia enables anybody to access information which was once the preserve of those who could afford the subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica and were prepared to navigate its maze of indexes and content pages," he said. "Modern technology enables a whole range of new educational tools to be used by pupils, teachers and schools."

But teachers and the website's founder, Larry Sanger, criticised Mr Johnson for encouraging pupils to use the website.

The general secretary of the NASWUT, Chris Keates, said the union itself had been the victim of scurrilous claims on Wikipedia. She said the online encyclopedia was popular but she would not recommend it to children as their sole source of information.

Wikipedia is among the top 10 most visited sites on the internet but it has been dogged by concerns in recent weeks over the veracity of its information. In March, a prominent and longstanding Wikipedia contributor was revealed to be a 24-year-old college dropout.

Mr Sanger, one of the founder members of Wikipedia, left the site after concerns for its integrity. He launched a new online encyclopedia - - two weeks ago, which will be monitored and edited by academics and other experts as well as accepting public contributions.

Mr Sanger said the aim of the new resource was to avoid the inconsistency and potential for vandalism of Wikipedia while retaining its democratic ideals. Volunteer contributors to the new site will be expected to provide their real names and experts in given fields will be asked to check articles for accuracy. Approved articles will receive a green tick to indicate their reliability.

Universities have long questioned the reliability of information posted and edited on Wikipedia. Marketing officials in UK universities monitor the information on the site because it can affect institutional reputations, acting as an alternative university guide.

Some American colleges have gone a step further and banned undergraduates from citing the website in their research papers. Middlebury College, in Vermont, proscribed citations from Wikipedia in January.

UK universities could well take similar measures, predicted Will Murray, director of a plagiarism advisory service for British higher education.

"There's a general feeling that students are regarding Wikipedia as an authority without checking to see if it is or not. It's a site that should be treated with scepticism and it's those skills that higher education is interested in getting across to students," said Mr Murray, of the Joint Information Systems Committee (Jisc).

He added: "There's a temptation to use the internet rather than peer reviewed journals. [Studnets] need to have a critical eye."

Jisc's TurnitinUK software is used by 90% of UK institutions to detect student plagiarism. The software can also detect plagiarised words on sites such as Wikipedia and identify where they came from, he said.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Dunlap's Wikipedia entry is the stuff of legend

Dunlap's Wikipedia entry is the stuff of legend
SEAN P. FLYNN, Staff Writer
Published April 5, 2007

If you've read Wofford College president Benjamin B. Dunlap's entry at online encyclopedia, then you wouldn't be surprised to see him holding a takraw ball in the picture that adorns a billboard next to the Beacon Drive-In.

His love of the Laotian sport takraw is one of the offbeat facts about the Wofford president revealed on Wikipedia, the peer-edited online encyclopedia. The site also says Dunlap has lived two lives and had two faces, and that he lived in a grass hut in Indonesia.

After a hearty laugh during a recent interview, Dunlap admitted the info provided in the last paragraph of the Wikipedia entry was based in truth but greatly exaggerated.

"That kind of legend never hurts a person's reputation," Dunlap said. "There's an element of truth to it. Two lives? Maybe it's plausible, but it's not that dramatic. Two faces? No. Grass hut? No."

Such partial truths are the nature of biography on Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that allows anyone to create and edit entries for almost any topic. And because it is so popular, a Google search of almost anybody reveals a Wikipedia entry within the first few links.

Some high-profile mistakes have made it onto the Web site, and into the media; last month, the comedian Sinbad was incorrectly reported dead on his Wikipedia page. The New Zealand Herald reported this week that Wikipedia's entry for stingrays included the fact that the fish "hated Australian people."

In the Spartanburg area, most links vary in depth but appear to be true, with a few quirks. The USC Upstate page has been edited a few times to include the exploits of individual students, including one that remains on the page. The Limestone College page has a rather extensive rundown of the recent successes of particular sports teams.

As for Dunlap's entry, most of it is an abridged version of his official Wofford biography, describing his educational history, his success as a television producer and his work as a writer.

The final paragraph, though, veers from the biography with what Dunlap says are half-truths. The site says he was Kris Kristofferson's roommate at Oxford; Dunlap says he and his fellow Rhodes scholar, who became a country music legend, were best friends but could not room together because they were in different colleges.

While Dunlap nearly drowned when he was 13 and had a motorcycle accident in his 20s that broke his nose, he insists he did not live two lives or have two faces. And while he lived in Indonesia when he picked up his love for takraw - a mix of soccer and volleyball played on a doubles' badminton court - he did not live in a grass hut there.

Meanwhile, one of the most impressive parts of Dunlap's resume is missing from his Wikipedia bio: his more than 20 years as a moderator of seminars for the Aspen Institute.

"That strikes me as more worthy of putting in there than the grass hut in Indonesia," Dunlap said. But, he added, "It's not that bad having people think I had two lives and two faces, and I lived in a grass hut in Indonesia."

Wikipedia runs afoul of some college history departments

Wikipedia runs afoul of some college history departments
SEAN P. FLYNN, Staff Writer
Published April 5, 2007

Wikipedia is being banned by a handful of college history departments across the country and, in Spartanburg, by at least one college student.

Katie Moore, a sophomore history major at Converse College, said she refuses to use the online encyclopedia, no matter how temptingly easy it is to lean on for gathering information.

"I don't think that history is something that should be edited by the mass public," Moore said. "I think that requires more of a specialist. I'm a history major, and I see how many people get facts wrong…. This just seems too prone for error."

In the last few years, the peer-edited online encyclopedia, which allows the general public to create, revise and edit entries on any topic, has become one of the most visited Web sites in the Internet world. The English-language Wikipedia site currently has more than 1.7 million different pages on almost any topic imaginable. It is the 10th-most-viewed Web site in the world, according to, a site that ranks Internet traffic.

In the world of scholarship, though, Wikipedia has also become one of the most hotly debated topics of the day, as students increasingly rely on the site as a research tool and, on occasion, as a source to be cited in research papers.

Recently, the history department at Middlebury College in Vermont prohibited students from citing Wikipedia in papers, and a few other schools followed. At local colleges, while no school has announced an official ban, some individual professors are taking the lead and curtailing students' usage of Wikipedia.

At Converse - where Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday night at Twichell Auditorium-history professor Melissa Walker has strictly curtailed the usage of Wikipedia for research papers.

She said it is impossible to fully ban its use as a primary resource, but she has stressed to students that the site is not allowed as a cited source for a paper.

"I have not found inaccurate information (in any papers), but I have often found superficial information," Walker said. "Sometimes I'll get a very simplistic answer on a very complex historical event… and then I find out it is citing a Wikipedia page."

Wales said in a telephone interview that he has no qualms with stands like the one Walker has made.

"That's exactly what we recommend," Wales said. "Students shouldn't be citing Encyclopedia Britannica either."

Moore said she has a few other friends who are against the use of Wikipedia, and that probably half of students at Converse have a view similar to hers.

Nicole Dumouchel, a freshman at Converse who double-majors in elementary education and Spanish, is a fan of the site. She has used with success a variation of it focusing on education, but said she never uses it as a primary source.

"Maybe in middle school or high school I used it, but that was before I found out that everyone could contribute," Dumouchel said. "So I don't use it for papers. But it's great resource to find out things like dates or song lyrics."

In many ways, Wikipedia is the byproduct of the ever-changing world of research, where the Internet has streamlined access to information, and computer databases and Google have replaced card catalogs and paper archives.

Margaret Green, the dean of the learning resources center at Spartanburg Community College, said the rise of Wikipedia is in part the inevitable advancement of the Internet. All of the inherent risks of the Internet - a network of computers sharing information, often unedited - are incorporated into this site. Green encourages students at SCC to carefully evaluate all online sources before citing them.

"I think (Wikipedia) is one of the most interesting innovations in this later Web development, as the Internet has matured," Green said. "This is a large people coming together to share their expertise, and they've made this wonderful encyclopedia. On the other side, because it's wide open, anybody can put anything on there, and there have been some abuses."

Various studies have estimated that the rate of errors in Wikipedia is not much worse than traditional encyclopedias. But in many cases the errors are much more absurd and noticeable; for example, last month Wikipedia falsely reported the death of the comedian Sinbad.

Still, almost no one can deny the usefulness of Wikipedia. Walker admitted that the external links displayed at the bottom of many pages provide an invaluable tool for student researchers.

Margo Wilson, the development coordinator for the Spartanburg County library system and a former children's librarian, said Wikipedia is an irreplaceable tool for her work.

She noted that in the old days a search would begin with a slow scroll through the World Book Encyclopedia.

"I think Wikipedia is a great first place to look for a quick spelling," Wilson said. "I use it for things like a child doing a report about Tiananmen Square…. I can pull up (the Internet), go to Wikipedia and type it in and get a spelling."

Still, no matter how simple Wikipedia may be to use, Moore won't budge from her stand against using it.

"I can see where it's an asset for general information," Moore said. "But I would never use it for a paper. There are better sources out there."

Staff writer Monica Mercer contributed to this story.

Wikipedia today, Citizendium tomorrow

Wikipedia today, Citizendium tomorrow
By Neha Tiwari
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: April 5, 2007, 4:00 AM PDT

Larry Sanger was a co-founder and the first paid editor of free online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Sanger now believes that the world deserves something better than his former start-up when it comes to online research. Citizendium, a new project being launched this month, abolishes posting on wikis anonymously, brings in experts to edit submissions, and enforces strict reviewing procedures.

Wikipedia has more than 400 million registered users, is offered in 250 languages and features almost 2 million articles in English alone. Sanger parted ways with Wikipedia in early 2003, but has remained committed to creating a trustworthy Wiki-based forum. With the launch of Citizendium approaching, Sanger talked with CNET about how his company plans to compete with the giant Wikipedia and change the way the world seeks information online--for good.

Q: You are better known as someone who co-founded Wikipedia. Why did you choose to leave Wikipedia?
Sanger: Well it was awhile ago now, and there were two different reasons that I left. First, I was laid off. The company that founded Wikipedia and Nupedia lost the ability to pay me with the economic downturn. But then I distanced myself from the project, essentially, because the project managers were really unwilling to rein in the troublemakers and also because there really wasn't any sort of special role made for experts. And that is what I told (Wikipedia co-founder) Jimmy Wales in the beginning of 2003 or so...explaining why I was leaving the project for good.

I think we absolutely need another wiki--first of all, simply because Wikipedia lacks credibility unfortunately.

So do you just feel that you had a different viewpoint, and do you feel that you're embracing something that's more of your own with Citizendium now?
Sanger: Well, I certainly have a difference of opinion about what the high-quality, free encyclopedia should look like. Citizendium is initially aimed to be a better competitor essentially to Wikipedia, but it isn't just that. We are going to be looking to aggregate a lot of different kinds of reliable information and we're already talking to different potential partners about how to do that. So, we've got greater ambitions than simply doing one better than Wikipedia.

Wikipedia has grown to be quite big. How do you plan on competing with them? Do you really think we need another wiki?
Sanger: I think we absolutely need another wiki--first of all, simply because Wikipedia lacks credibility, unfortunately. It's a good starting place, as people say--on some subjects anyway--but it isn't really what we want out of a reliable reference resource. And frankly, I don't think that the Wikipedia community is prepared to make the changes that I think need to be made in order to transform Wikipedia into something that's really reliable.

As to the other question, how can we possibly compete? I simply think that it will take some years before we have developed on the order of several 100,000 articles and we will grow in the same way that Wikipedia itself grew. Obviously, we're not going to be much of a competitor for some time, but just give us a few years and we will be equally useful for the most widely read topics, and actually more useful, of course, simply because our information will be more credible.

On Citizendium, you have "experts" and "constables." Can you explain where the experts come from? How do we know that they're credible?
Sanger: Well, experts have approached us mostly as a result of the press that we've gotten. We've done a little bit of recruitment, but for the most part, it's people who just show up, and there was actually quite a few of them. There are also a lot of people who have gotten frustrated with Wikipedia and have left it to join us.

Listen up
Larry Sanger looking to trump Wikipedia Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger speaks with CNET's Neha Tiwari about the upcoming launch of his new site, Citizendium.

About the second part of the question, well there's a lot of different views that people take about the credibility of experts per se, right? I mean, I myself (don't get) all gaga over someone simply because he or she has got a Ph.D. I think, however, that the fact that someone has credentials of various sorts--not just degrees--is an indicator that they know unusual amounts about very specific subjects. So really, the question here is why should anybody think that people that are considered by society as experts are really credible or reliable? That's a question for each of us to answer, I think, on our own. If it has to come down to my believing someone when someone writes something on a Web site, I would rather believe someone who has made it his or her life work to study something than someone who's read a single book on the subject written by that expert.

Are you aiming Citizendium at an older, more mature audience than what Wikipedia has aimed at?
Sanger: Well, in so far as I'm aiming at all, which I really can't do because it's a wiki, might be surprised to know that I would like the wiki to be as open and inclusive in terms of topics as possible. And all the people who are into, you know, videogames and fan literature and all together concerns that people make fun of Wikipedia for having all these articles about--I'd welcome them with open arms. Personally I think that it is the citizens' compendium and we need a lot of information about everything. The whole question is, can we maintain large (and comprehensive) sets of articles about different topics? I'm not going to go out of my way to attract the Trekkies, for example. When I sit down and actually take the time to do recruitment, which we really haven't had the time to do much so far, I'll definitely go after academics first.

Going down to the specifics or the processes of how Citizendium works, we at CNET here, we try to submit links on Wikipedia to our own legitimate stories on relevant wiki topics, but they were blocked and immediately pulled down. At Citizendium would that kind of thing be allowed or would that not also be seen as legitimate?
Sanger: Well, I think the details of that policy have yet to be worked out. Generally, we don't like people to use general information resources to promote their own material. On the other hand, someone like CNET or maybe National Geographic or the Smithsonian or one of these sources of credible information can actually be doing the world some good by carefully placing links when they are really relevant and when they're as good as the ones that are up there already.

I think what we can end up having to do is make use of what we call our topic informant work group; these are people who will essentially be our liaison with people who are experts about themselves, essentially, or who are trying to promote their own causes and what not on, say, a Web site. That work group is probably going to have to carefully manage certain marketing efforts and so forth. I can see nothing wrong with CNET linking to some of its more important articles that really explain something very well or for that matter articles about current events that we have, but on the other hand don't want to be a link repository for every link that anyone might possibly want to put up. It's just that actually reduces the quality. So, it has to be managed, and how it's going to be managed is a problem that we're going to look at very carefully.

In some ways the Net that we know is based on the idea of being anonymous. Why doesn't Citizendium allow this? Why do you have to reveal who you are and use your real name to use Citizendium?
Sanger: Well, there's a couple of different reasons. First, anonymity tends to make people into jerks if they have any tendencies in that direction. They lack accountability and because they lack accountability that enables some people to disrupt the process. And there's some other reasons too, though. The biggest other reason is that if we use real names, the whole of the project looks a lot more credible. If I look at the page history for an article and I see nothing but real names, I have some confidence that if someone has put in some really egregious error, they're going to be reined in. I don't have any such assurance if there are a bunch of pseudonyms and mere IP addresses.

By using your real name, you have a sense of responsibility to what you post?
Sanger: I think it certainly increases the sense of responsibility and the actual responsibility that other people can hold you to.

But that won't stop all offensive or untrue content from being posted, right?
Sanger: No, of course not.

How long does the article approval process take?
Sanger: Well, it depends on when you consider the article approval process to begin. From the time that someone submits an article for approval, someone nominates an article for approval, our minimum is one week. So in other words, other people have to have the opportunity to comment on an article for at least a week. The approval process is not meant to be rapid, because when we put our approval on something it's actually supposed to be meaningful and important. Right now we are doing all of our approval by hand, and what we are going to be doing is changing the software so that editors can simply click a button and an article will be approved. They really can't do that right now, and that will of course make the process a little bit faster and easier.

Citizendium is a huge project. Where are you getting the bandwidth?
Sanger: Well, Steadfast Networks of Chicago has generously donated the bandwidth to us, the literal bandwidth as well as two of our five servers so, we're very grateful to them for that, but we're also paying a monthly bill and it ain't cheap. We are soliciting donations and just yesterday I put out feelers to my own network, telling people about the launch and so forth, and hopefully we'll get some extra infusions of cash that way. And there's various sort of things that we can do. One thing that we have thought seriously about doing is adding information about our donors to the bottom of pages. I think that could be a nice incentive for some companies and foundations.

We're here at the beginning of Citizendium. Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Sanger: I would hope five years down the road that we would have over a million articles, that we would have over a 100,000 approved articles, that we would have on the order of tens of thousands of quite active people and, say, something like 10,000 editors who are reasonably active. I would hope also that we would be one of the highest ranked Web sites. I also would hope that we would be launched in many different languages and each language having its own editor in chief. And I would hope that all of those people at least would be making a living as editors in chief.

And there's a number of other projects that we are, different people in our orbit are working on, for example, a sort of encyclopedia of debate, a debate guide so to speak--something like Debatepedia, but done our way--and summaries of the news and a few other things. Actually, five years down the road, by then, I hope that I will no longer be the editor in chief--indeed, I've already committed not to being the editor in chief--and that someone else would have taken over, and in fact that person should have been replaced by a third editor in chief by five years from now. And so the whole community should be, as it were, a sovereign entity beholden only to the community members and not to any single individual.

Wikipedia: is it worthwhile or worthless?

Wikipedia: is it worthwhile or worthless?
Travis Reynolds
Issue date: 4/5/07
Section: News

What would you do if something you trusted to be the truth, wasn't?

Every day, people all over the world perform research using our Internet friend named Wikipedia.

Its vast catalog of online encyclopedia entries cover just about everything a student could want to know. And its price tag -- $0 -- certainly beats paying hundreds for textbooks.

"The Free Encyclopedia" boasts millions of articles, has a powerful built-in search engine, operates in multiple languages and puts every scrap of its information a single click away. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Quite a lot, as it turns out.

Despite its versatility and simple interface, Wikipedia has suffered numerous critical attacks since its conception in 2001.

Users of the site know that its article pages may be freely supplied and altered by anyone, at any time, without so much as providing a name.

Its detractors claim that this system of anonymous contribution allows false information to be passed off as real and genuine facts to be vandalized by anyone with an Internet connection.

Contributors of Wikipedia are required to provide citations for articles; however, according to the site's own entry about itself as of March 29, "a drawback of this citation-only approach is that readers may be unable to judge the credibility of a cited source."

The issue with Wikipedia's credibility reaches into Eastern's classrooms, as some professors have forbidden citations of the popular encyclopedia.

Lisa Day-Lindsey, assistant professor of English, is one of them.

"Until I started banning its use," Day-Lindsey said, "Wikipedia appeared on many (students') bibliographies because of its high status in Google searches, its easy search capabilities and its attractive organization of information."

Day-Lindsey added, "I do not allow Wikipedia citations because whenever I have checked students' use of the site, I find factual errors and misinterpretations...many contributors post or edit entries with no authority whatsoever."

To this end, one of Wikipedia's co-founders, Larry Sanger, has begun work on a new version of the online encyclopedia.

The project, called Citizendium, functions based on the same system as Wikipedia; however, it requires contributors to provide their names by applying for a user account.

In addition, the project employs over 180 experts to investigate the veracity of articles.

"Anonymity can certainly speed up the development cycle of online projects," Sanger said in a press release, "but it also opens the door to the significant problems like vandalism and inaccuracy, as we've seen highlighted recently in the news."

The Citizendium project began in November 2006 and is currently in the beta stage of development.

"We are proud to say that we have had no vandalism either before or after the short period in which we tested out a self-registration system," Sanger said.

But at this point, Wikipedia dominates the online encyclopedia landscape. As it sinks deeper into professional disregard, more and more students will have to look elsewhere for their reference information.

Even so, Wikipedia's collegiate woes are not unique to its online format.

"I ban citations from any encyclopedia," Day-Lindsey explained, "because, especially at the college level, writers should be more discriminating researchers. If the students use Wikipedia or any encyclopedia, their research will appear generalized, causing their work to look mediocre at best."

Eastern's students are not without alternatives, should Wikipedia prove unreliable. Aside from textbooks, students have access to an entire library of on-paper information, coupled with a broad college database and a diverse faculty to bombard with questions.

"If the students use the excellent databases available to them through the EKU Library," Day-Lindsey said, "their work will almost always contain more specific, professional information."

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Vandal changes Leahy's Wikipedia photo to rat

Vandal changes Leahy's Wikipedia photo to rat
April 4, 2007
Vermont Press Bureau

In politics, it's not unusual to smell a rat.

But is unusual to see a U.S. Senator depicted as one on his Wikipedia page. That's what happened to Sen. Patrick Leahy Tuesday.

An unknown Leahy critic replaced the grinning photo of Vermont's ranking Democrat on the popular open source encyclopedia Web site Tuesday with that of a rat. The picture was removed late Tuesday afternoon.

The unknown vandal — identified only by the IP address "" on the Web site — also made misleading photo changes to the Wikipedia entries for other well-known political figures, including Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif, and presidential adviser Karl Rove.

Leahy's sudden visual change on the site was news to his staff in Washington.

Spokesman David Carle guessed the Wiki-attack likely stems from Leahy's role as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is locking horns with the White House over its investigation into the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys.

Carle said he did not believe Leahy's Wikipedia entry had been vandalized in the past.

"Either way, we take this as a back-handed compliment," he said.

Vandalism of Wikipedia entries are not uncommon, but the company's internal review process, which includes roaming automated bots hunting through pages for key words, usually catch these attacks before they hit the Web page, according to Sandra Ordonez, the communications manager for the Florida-based nonprofit group.

She said it is not clear how this act of vandalism made it through the checkpoints, although Wikipedia staff and volunteers have been busy cleaning up from attempted April Fools Day changes.

"We have several processes in place to catch these acts of vandalism, but sometimes they slip through the cracks," Ordonez said.

The mysterious political vandal was busy in the days prior to targeting Leahy's entry.

On March 31, the vandal changed Waxman's picture to a rat — the same visual, lifted from the U.S. National Park Service Web site, that was used on Leahy's page. Rove's picture was replaced with a cartoon image of Porky Pig.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., got the same rat treatment and forensic pathologist Dr. Joshua Perper was replaced with an image of the Marvel Comics super-villain Hammerhead on March 29.

Ordonez said she did not know who the vandal was, but she did say they tracked the IP address to the Danville Public Library in Danville, Ill.

Roberta Allen, director of reference and archives at that library, said they have four computer terminals with Internet access at the facility. Users can sign up for specific slots of time, but if a station is available the library does not track who uses the machines.

Allen said the Danville Public Library serves the 33,800 people living in that city and is the largest public library in the county. But no one working Tuesday saw anything out of the ordinary, she said.

"Someone could have easily done this and we wouldn't know about it," she said.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Professors oppose scholarly use of Wikipedia

Professors oppose scholarly use of Wikipedia
Peer review Web site provides useful information, though not necessarily reliable, according to some professors
Harry Hoover
Issue date: 4/2/07
Section: Features

Wikipedia is used by millions of people around the world as a quick and easy source of information about hundreds of thousands of topics.

According to the Web site, Wikipedia is a "multilingual, Web-based, free content encyclopedia project�written collaboratively by volunteers from all around the world."

Kevin Carosa, a freshman in business management, said Wikipedia is a "great resource for general information."

He said he uses it mainly for his amusement, but uses it for academic purposes as well.

"I mainly search my interests like rugby or soccer or movies," Carosa said. "But I used it for English class to get some background information on different animals too."

Steven Horton, a senior in environmental technology, uses Wikipedia for similar reasons.

"I use it for looking up random information," Horton said. "Like if I want to find out about a musician, or a historical event, or some random location I use it."

However, many in the academic field are known to discourage students from using Wikipedia as a credible source of information. Jon Thompson, an English professor, has a different view on the topic.

He suggests Wikipedia to his students because "many students do not consult encyclopedias or dictionaries when there are terms that they're unfamiliar with. So part of it is an effort on my part to encourage students to expand the boundaries of what they know by getting into the habit of consulting reference material."

Thompson did note though that Wikipedia is widely believed to be unreliable and said he he treads lightly with the site.

"Wikipedia is spotty in terms of its reliability," Thompson said. "You have to be selective about how you use it."

When it comes to important research-based essays, Thompson does not accept Wikipedia as a source.

"I would expect that people would use more conventional, quality controlled sources," Thompson said. "In fact, I would expect that they go well beyond encyclopedias of any kind, whether online or print, mainly using criticism itself."

Carosa agreed with Thompson about using Wikipedia as a source.

"I don't think it is reliable because people can edit the entries so you can't be sure about its reliability," Carosa said.

He said he believes it is much better to get information from an academic journal than Wikipedia.

"Most of the entries are probably correct, but due to anyone being able to edit it you just can't be sure about," Carosa said.

Horton said he has not experienced negativity toward Wikipedia with his professors.

"My professors don't really give a crap about it," he said. "I've seen some people throw in a Wikipedia article for a source on a presentation and [the professors] don't seem to mind."

Despite his accepting professors, Horton said he still stays away from Wikipedia for his papers.

"I usually stick to the library for those, but if you check out the sources for the articles on Wikipedia, some could be valid," he said.

Thompson admitted Wikipedia is still a valuable resource for many purposes.

"It's really primarily useful as introduction to a subject, a kind of USA Today sort of introduction to a subject," he said. "Although, one wants to be aware that you might want to cross-reference anything that seems to be important or questionable."

Thompson said using it casually and judiciously is useful, but he has a greater purpose in suggesting it to his students.

"The main thing is to try to encourage students to look up things they don't know. If they can do that they can be well on their way to expanding their horizons," he said.

Source of the problem: Colleges begin to ban Wikipedia

Source of the problem: Colleges begin to ban Wikipedia as cited reference in academic work, SU leaves it up to professor
Matt Reilly
Issue date: 4/2/07
Section: Front Page

With nothing more than a computer, Internet access and a cruel sense of humor, an Internet vandal edited the Wikipedia article of comedian Sinbad earlier this month, duping the world into thinking the actor had died. It took a while for the confusion to clear when Sinbad told the Associated Press:

"Saturday I rose from the dead and then died again."

This is just another example of the issues being created by the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit: Wikipedia.

The Web site has seen rapid growth in recent years - there were 38 million users in the United States in December - and it was cited too often in academic essays for the history department at Middlebury College, a small liberal arts school in Vermont. The department's decision in late February to ban the site as a cited source brought the criticism of the national news media, placing it at the center of a debate that has engulfed academia, journalism and legal studies.

Tufts University, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Pennsylvania have also adopted similar policies.

Syracuse University, however, does not have a policy regarding Wikipedia. No school, college nor individual department has a policy officially banning the site, said Sandra Hurd, associate provost for academic affairs. Instead that decision is left up to the individual professor.

"That's the kind of thing faculty would really handle in their own class," she said.

One professor who has taken the initiative during the past three years to make sure his students don't reference the site is history professor Chris Kyle.

"While Wikipedia is a tremendously useful source, it is not a scholarly or critical source of information," he said. "The coverage is patchy, uneven."

The issue with using Wikipedia is that unlike peer-reviewed scholarly journals and critically-edited newspaper articles, there is not proper vetting, said Ian MacInnes, professor in the School of Information Studies. Vetting ensures that the article has been fact-checked and verified.

"There is a danger in relying on Wikipedia," he said. "You are going to have the potential to get information that isn't reliable."

Professor Scott Strickland, chair of the undergraduate history department at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, agrees that students should proceed with caution before engaging Wikipedia for research.

Strickland said he would rather students "use online sources that can be verified by print or archival sources elsewhere."

In his courses, Strickland said he finds the site problematic and has considered making a firm policy for his students. It is also the case that Wikipedia seems to be involved in cases of academic dishonesty in his classes - more often than not.

Both professors of history, Kyle has a firm policy and Strickland does not. The difference can exist because SU's history department has not even discussed banning Wikipedia and has no official policy on the site's use.

"SU's history department is in support of an absolute definition of academic freedom," Strickland said. Though he added he would be more pleased with a consistent policy regarding Internet sources in general, the best policy would only let students use Web sites that could be verified by other sources.

Kyle, on the other hand, said he would endorse a department-wide policy on Wikipedia but thinks all policies should be department specific - not encompassing an entire school or college.

Either way, Wikipedia, surprisingly, seems to support such policies throughout academia.

In an interview with "NBC Nightly News," Jim Redmond, a Wikipedia administrator and editor, said the ban at Middlebury "is a great idea. Students shouldn't even be tempted to use Wikipedia as an original source."

And the site's co-founder and chairman emeritus Jimmy Wales told The New York Times, "Basically, they are recommending exactly what we suggested - students shouldn't be citing encyclopedias. I would hope they wouldn't be citing Encyclopedia Britannica, either."