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  1. Wikipedia turns 20: Our core value of neutrality has served us well, says co-founder Jimmy Wales Wikipedia will turn 20 years on January 15. Co-founder Jimmy Wales said that “The idea that Wikipedia shouldn't take sides on any major issue... is really a core value for us that's served us very well.” Wikipedia is turning 20 this year, and now has over 55 million articles. (Image credit: Wikipedia) Roughly 350 edits per minute. That’s how active the volunteer editors are on Wikipedia. But when Wikipedia started, nearly 20 years back in 2001, there was no password required for editors logging in to write these articles. That was a mistake that co-founder Jimmy Wales quickly decided to fix. “I remember going all the way back to the very, very beginning when we were just on one server. In fact, in the early days of Wikipedia, there wasn’t even a real way to log in. Anybody could pretend to be anybody else. Well, that was never going to work. So very quickly I wrote a password system,” Wales told members of the media over a Zoom call. Wikipedia has come a long way since then, and on January 15 will mark 20 years of the online encyclopedia. There are now over 55 million articles on the platform, available in 300 languages. Underlining the core philosophies of the platform, Wales said the vision of “free access to the sum of all human knowledge,” has served them well. “We’ve never thought of ourselves as a wide-open, free speech or anarchy or democracy. We’re a project to build an encyclopedia,” Wales explained, adding that for Wikipedia, neutrality remains a core ideal. “The idea that Wikipedia shouldn’t take sides on any major issue, we should explain the issue so that people can understand all sides is really a core value for us that’s served us very well,” he added. The Wikipedia co-founder also stressed on civility, adding that “no personal attacks” was one of the oldest rules of the platform. Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia in this file photo. (Image via Wikipedia) “It’s particularly poignant today, given that we have so many places online that seem to be devoted almost exclusively to people screaming and yelling at each other and being a really kind of an unpleasant place to be. The idea of having a place that tries to present ideas in a neutral fashion is incredibly important,” he outlined. Wikipedia and India In India, Wikipedia sees over 750 million visits each month, and it is the fifth-highest number of views from any country. While Wikipedia is available in 24 languages in India, regional languages such as Punjabi, Odia, Malayalam have far more active communities on the platform, compared to say Hindi. “Certain language communities are much more active than others…We know that the Odia community is perhaps a bit smaller, but quite active. The Punjabi speaking community is quite active in the Wikipedia world. And it is perhaps a somewhat unfortunate trend that we’ve recognized that the Hindi language Wikipedia is, relatively speaking, less active than some of these other languages that I’ve referenced despite being so widely spoken as a language,” Katherine Maher, CEO and executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation said in the call. Maher also spoke about Wikipedia’s investments in mobile editing over the past two years to encourage participation in India, given it is a primarily mobile-driven market. “Now you can edit Wikipedia on your mobile phone and you do not need to use a desktop. And you have nearly exactly the same functionality as you would on a desktop. This is intentional because we recognise that this is where the majority of the world lives is in the mobiles in their pockets,” she said. Wikimedia CEO Katherine Mahers. (Image credit: Wikipedia) Wikipedia also launched an application on KaiOS, as they recognised it as one of the more common operating systems used across India. COVID-19 and Wikipedia While the COVID-19 pandemic ensured record-breaking increases in daily traffic for Wikipedia, it also contributed to new problems around misinformation. In October 2020, Wikipedia collaborated with the World Health Organization to ensure authoritative content on the platform around the pandemic. Wikipedia now has over 7,000 articles related to various aspects of COVID-19 across all languages, including its impact on countries, events and people. The English Wikipedia article about the COVID-19 pandemic has gathered over 80 million page views so far. But creating this content was not easy. “The access to good information that we have can very quite literally, be a matter of life or death. And so when the world was faced with all this uncertainty and people saw understanding, we saw Wikipedia shine,” Maher said in the call adding that the pandemic was one of only many high-profile topics, subject to scrutiny and attempts at misinformation. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic made the task a lot harder for even dedicated Wikipedia volunteers. One such volunteer editor is Dr Netha Hussain, who has been active on the platform for the past 10 years. Sweden-based Dr Hussain is originally from Kerala, a medical doctor by training and now works as a researcher in clinical neuroscience. She writes articles in Malayalam, English and Swedish on the platform. “I started editing Wikipedia in 2010 when I was a first-year medical student. The idea of sharing free knowledge with millions of people around the world sounded very exciting to me at that time and it excites me even today,” she said during the call. When the pandemic started, Dr Hussain had to make sure that the information provided was reliable. “Writing about an ongoing pandemic was not easy. Misinformation about the pandemic spread like wildfire on the internet and many people believed in this, and also shared them to their loved ones out of ignorance,” she said. She had to work on ensuring that the information was accurate and that it was easy for readers to see what was true. Plus the new scientific research coming out each day made it a challenge for Dr Hussain to keep up. “I had to present them on Wikipedia in a language simple enough for everyone to read and understand,” she told the media. Future efforts As part of its 2030 vision, the Wikimedia Foundation has developed a $4.5 million Equity Fund that will offer grants to advance more equitable, inclusive representation in Wikimedia projects, including Wikipedia. Maher acknowledged in the call that Wikipedia is still largely edited by men, and that’s something they wish to change. Wikipedia is also announcing its first-ever multilingual initiative on Indian Sportswomen, where journalism students will participate in a hackathon to make Wikipedia and the internet a more gender-equal space. In addition, the foundation will hold dedicated online workshops to educate participants on the basics of using the online encyclopedia. The Wikimedia Foundation will also hold a virtual event, hosted by Maher and Wales to showcase the contributions of Wikipedia’s global volunteer communities. The event will kick-off a year-long celebration themed “20 Years Human,” which is a nod to those who make Wikipedia possible. The livestream will be available on January 15 at 9.30 pm IST. Source: Wikipedia turns 20: Our core value of neutrality has served us well, says co-founder Jimmy Wales
  2. XOWA is the free, open-source application that lets you download Wikipedia to your computer. Access all of Wikipedia offline -- without an internet connection! Features: Download a complete, recent copy of English Wikipedia. Display 5.0+ million articles in full HTML formatting. Show images within an article. Access 5.0+ million images using the offline image databases. Set up over 800+ other wikis including: English Wiktionary English Wikisource English Wikiquote English Wikivoyage Non-English wikis, such as French Wiktionary, German Wikisource, Dutch Wikivoyage Wikidata Wikimedia Commons Wikispecies ... and many more! Update your wiki whenever you want, using Wikimedia's database backups. Navigate between offline wikis. Click on "Look up this word in Wiktionary" and instantly view the page in Wiktionary. Edit articles to remove vandalism or errors. Install to a flash memory card for portability to other machines. Run on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Raspberry Pi, and Android View the HTML for any wiki page Search for any page by title using a Wikipedia-like Search box Browse pages by alphabetical order using Special:AllPages Find a word on a page. Access a history of viewed pages Bookmark your favorite pages. Requirements: XOWA is written in Java and requires 1.7 or above Release Notes: (2021-01-25) Fix broken javascript: links. See #836 Homepage: http://xowa.org/ https://github.com/gnosygnu/xowa Download: https://github.com/gnosygnu/xowa/releases/tag/v4.6.15.2101
  3. Wikipedia's Biggest Challenge Awaits in 2021 Changes proposed by the Wikimedia Foundation to diversify its community of editors raise existential questions for the online encyclopedia. Photo-Illustration: Sam Whitney; Getty Images Facts are stubborn things. And that stubbornness was a vital asset for Wikipedia in 2020, as it unapologetically banned from its pages disinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic and the presidential election. The contrast was sharp with global digital platforms like Facebook and YouTube, which slowly, and often ineffectually, responded to false political and scientific claims living on their servers. Yet as Wikipedia begins a new year with a burnished reputation as a trusted, fact-based resource, it faces thorny questions beyond accuracy that threaten its grand, encyclopedic mission: Can the community of editors and administrators who collect and present the facts become as sturdy and reliable as the facts themselves? The fear is that unless Wikipedia diversifies its editing ranks, it will be unable to produce the needed context, proportionality, fairness, and imagination to accurately collect the world’s knowledge. In 2021 the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the more than 300 different versions of Wikipedia, plans to finalize a uniform code of conduct that details unacceptable behavior among the project’s editors—including insults, sexual harassment, and doxing—and assigns corresponding punishments. The new system, which is being fashioned in consultation with the editors and administrators across the encyclopedias, would differ significantly from the current, decentralized disciplinary apparatus. Not only would there be uniform standards of conduct, but there likely would be easier access to the protection of privacy for those who make complaints of harassment. These changes are vital to having a diverse community of editors, its advocates say, because the current system places a heavy burden on the marginalized groups most frequently targeted—women, people of color, and queer people—by having them speak out publicly against their abusers and risk retaliation. A foundation report on gender equity recounted a number of examples of harassment that followed from calling out misbehavior, like the editor who described having porn posted on their user page after complaining of porn posted on another editor’s user page. Once a harassment complaint is public, there can be added pressure on the person being harassed to accept minimal punishments against abusive editors who are popular in the community. Prevented from getting justice, editors who have been targeted by harassers frequently choose to leave. At the same time, the foundation is also proposing to expand its board from 10 members to 16, to give more influence to experts from outside the community. Together, these moves by the foundation would steer Wikipedia toward a path that is less inward facing and more reliant on the outside professionals at the foundation. The fear among some longtime editors is that these changes could stifle the grassroots energy that has taken the project so far in its 20 years. Wikipedia isn’t a social club, they would point out, but a project meant to accomplish something and thus more likely to generate personality clashes and hurt feelings. An inordinate focus on civility, the argument goes, can be a distraction from doing the work; stifle the passion, and you’ll have articles with the tone and vitality of an annual report. The opposite fear, of course, is that without any changes Wikipedia will fail in its ultimate mission to provide, in the words of its early visionary, Jimmy Wales, “free access to the sum of all human knowledge” because its active editors will remain heavily skewed toward white men from wealthy countries with a tech background. Consider the women running for the United States Senate, or carrying out Nobel-prize-caliber science, who were judged “not notable enough” to warrant a Wikipedia article. Or the range of important African American institutions and people, like the Greater Bethel AME Church in Harlem or the costume designer Judy Dearing, whose articles were only created during edit-a-thons dedicated to expanding what is included in Wikipedia. Ultimately, both sides in this dispute recognize that what appears in the encyclopedia is a reflection of its editors—they just disagree about whether the community of editors needs to change how it operates. More than a decade ago, I wrote an essay comparing Wikipedia to a vibrant city, how it “can send you down unlikely alleyways” via the many links embedded on a single page: There are the links to articles about other people or places mentioned; links to categories of articles on similar topics; links to articles on the same topic in different languages with unexpected illustrations, which, of course, have their own peculiar connections. The entire enterprise was city-like in that adventurous, ambitious people had gathered to build something lasting together, expanding up and down and all around. In my conception, to visit Wikipedia was to be a flaneur, wandering unharmed from interesting edifice to interesting edifice. I paid little attention to those in marginalized groups who find Wikipedia full of frightening dark alleys and abrasive characters. In 2020, I decided to travel to some of the unwelcome corners of Wikipedia that I didn’t write about a decade ago. That’s how I came across an article obsessed with exposing the clay feet of Benjamin Banneker, a Black inventor and scientist in colonial America. This was not the Wikipedia article about Banneker himself, which covers his long life in inventing, surveying, and mathematics, but a purported companion piece— thousands of words long, with 250 footnotes—entitled “Mythology of Benjamin Banneker.” The article finds examples of praise for Banneker for building a wooden clock or surveying the area that became Washington, DC, and then quotes accounts questioning whether the historical record supports such praise. Over the years, editors have shown up to complain about the article, including one wondering whether the Einstein article should, similarly, quote from the book Einstein: The Incorrigible Plagiarist. But objections to this and other obscure, potentially offensive articles rarely carry the day unless an experienced editor or administrator can be enlisted to mount a campaign to reverse course. Since he began editing in 2004, Ian Ramjohn, who is from Trinidad and Tobago, has carefully tracked how marginalized groups are treated within Wikipedia’s editing corps and on its pages. He’s seen progress in driving out racism and sexism in articles that receive a lot of views. “Problems tend to remain in more obscure topics,” he wrote in an email. “The fewer people who have seen an article, the less likely it is that someone will have done the work to push back against this kind of thing. A lot of Wikipedians avoid conflict, so they won't be inclined to start something. Others may not feel confident enough in their stock of social capital—I can take risks that someone who hasn't been around as long as me might not—or want to endure the stress of these fights.” In some future version of Wikipedia that takes harassment more seriously, one can imagine an increasingly diverse crew of editors empowered to oppose offensive content, even if that content is fact-based. In my travels, I also wound up at a detailed account of a Nazi-produced children’s book that, until recently, linked to a neo-Nazi’s site where an English translation was sold. One visitor left a comment wondering if every slur against Jews really needed a link to a library’s copy of that particular section: “We need a RS [reliable source] for the claims about what the book says, not the hateful propaganda book itself!” For that 2009 essay, I had looked to the writings of Lewis Mumford, a historian and great thinker of cities who saw tolerance for outsiders as at the root of urban life. “Even before the city is a place of fixed residence,” he wrote, “it begins as a meeting place to which people periodically return: The magnet comes before the container, and this ability to attract nonresidents to it for intercourse and spiritual stimulus no less than trade remains one of the essential criteria of the city, a witness to its essential dynamism, as opposed to the more fixed and indrawn form of the village, hostile to the outsider.” This is the gnawing challenge for Wikipedia. After a period of wild, unrestrained growth, it needs some civilizing laws. The equivalent of a fair housing act and safety inspections to ensure it won’t exclude certain groups from its pages and allow hateful material to grow and fester. Just as it takes more than bricks to build a city, it takes more than facts to build a thriving encyclopedia. Wikipedia's Biggest Challenge Awaits in 2021
  4. Wikipedia Is Finally Asking Big Tech to Pay Up The Big Four all lean on the encyclopedia at no cost. With the launch of Wikimedia Enterprise, the volunteer project will change that—and possibly itself too. From the start, Google and Wikipedia have been in a kind of unspoken partnership: Wikipedia produces the information Google serves up in response to user queries, and Google builds up Wikipedia’s reputation as a source of trustworthy information. Of course, there have been bumps, including Google’s bold attempt to replace Wikipedia with its own version of user-generated articles, under the clumsy name “Knol,” short for knowledge. Knol never did catch on, despite Google’s offer to pay the principal author of an article a share of advertising money. But after that failure, Google embraced Wikipedia even tighter—not only linking to its articles but reprinting key excerpts on its search result pages to quickly deliver Wikipedia’s knowledge to those seeking answers. The two have grown in tandem over the past 20 years, each becoming its own household word. But whereas one mushroomed into a trillion-dollar company, the other has remained a midsize nonprofit, depending on the generosity of individual users, grant-giving foundations, and the Silicon Valley giants themselves to stay afloat. Now Wikipedia is seeking to rebalance its relationships with Google and other big tech firms like Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, whose platforms and virtual assistants lean on Wikipedia as a cost-free virtual crib sheet. Today, the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates the Wikipedia project in more than 300 languages as well as other wiki-projects, is announcing the launch of a commercial product, Wikimedia Enterprise. The new service is designed for the sale and efficient delivery of Wikipedia's content directly to these online behemoths (and eventually, to smaller companies too). Conversations between the foundation’s newly created subsidiary, Wikimedia LLC, and Big Tech companies are already underway, point-people on the project said in an interview, but the next couple of months will be about seeking the reaction of Wikipedia’s thousands of volunteers. Agreements with the firms could be reached as soon as June. “This is the first time the foundation has recognized that commercial users are users of our service,” says Lane Becker, a senior director at the foundation, who has been ramping up the Enterprise project with a small team. “We’ve known they are there, but we never really treated them as a user base.” For years now, Wikipedia has made freely available a snapshot of everything that appears on the site every two weeks—a so-called “data dump” for users—as well as a “fire hose” of all the changes as they are happening, delivered in a different format. This is how big companies typically import Wikipedia content into their platforms, with no special help from the foundation. “They all have teams dedicated to Wikipedia management—big ones,” Becker said, adding that making the different content speak to each other required “a lot of low-level work—cleaning and managing—which is very expensive.” The free, albeit clunky option will still be available to all users, including commercial ones. This means that Wikimedia Enterprise’s principal competition, in the words of Lisa Seitz-Gruwell, the foundation’s chief revenue officer, is Wikipedia itself. But the formatting problems with the free version offer an obvious opportunity to create a product worth paying for, one tailored to the requirements of each company. For example, Enterprise will deliver the real-time changes and comprehensive data dumps in a compatible format. There will also be a level of customer service typical of business arrangements but unprecedented for the volunteer-directed project: a number for its customers to call, a guarantee of certain speeds for delivering the data, a team of experts assigned to solve specific technical flaws. In another break for a project like Wikipedia, which was conceived as part of the world of free software, Enterprise will host its version of Wikipedia content not on the project’s own servers but on Amazon Web Services, which it says will allow it to meet the needs of its customers better. In explanatory materials, the foundation takes pains to justify the decision and stresses that “it is not contractually, technically, or financially bound to use AWS infrastructure.” As these comments suggest, the Wikipedia movement, which has proudly stood by its early Internet idealism, is wrestling with how much to cater to the needs of the commercial giants with very different norms not just about free software, but also transparency and “monetizing” its users. However, the foundation officials shepherding the Enterprise project argue that Wikipedia would be foolish to disengage from the big companies, since they provide the primary ways for people to read its articles. By offering more useful data, Enterprise will help ensure that commercial operators display the latest, most accurate version of articles and crack down on vandalism quicker. A contractual relationship will also more formally recognize that these companies are extracting value from a volunteer project, and therefore must “contribute back to the commons,” Seitz-Gruwell says. They should be required to help sustain the resources that their businesses rely on—like a logger planting trees. Similarly, Wikipedia can use the contracts to insist that it be credited in certain ways or help direct volunteers to the site. The Foundation says it doesn’t expect Enterprise ever to become the primary source of funding for the foundation’s roughly $100 million budget. User donations, supplemented by grants, should still carry most of the load, Seitz-Gruwell says, but having a reliable additional revenue stream from companies would offer stability for the foundation, particularly as it embarks on an ambitious agenda for the year 2030 to reach more parts of the world and more communities with “free knowledge.” “We have a big job ahead of us, no doubt about it,” she says, adding that it “requires revenue growth.” Once you concede that big platforms will control the flow of commerce and information online, you can focus on how to get your cut. A proud Silicon Valley holdout, the Wikimedia Foundation is finally doing just that. But of course, for a project like Wikipedia, and other industries whose products have been siphoned by the platforms, the flip side of Big Tech-funded stability is the threat of dependency. Wikipedia will now necessarily be orienting itself to the demands of the commercial internet, even if it comes in return for sizable payments to support a better, stronger, more diverse community. Wikipedia is an extraordinary resource, a cumulative effort over two decades to describe the world, both its long past and its of-the-moment twists and turns. As it’s grown, it’s remained committed to its core non-commercial ideals. Big Tech companies, on the other hand, have proven themselves to be rapacious capitalists—they take as much as they can, and ask for permission later. They will imitate a competitor in a heartbeat to gain control of a service they consider valuable. Wikipedia’s decision to enter into an agreement with them and begin an explicit relationship, as opposed to an unspoken one, carries the risk that the commercial world’s values—as well as its ample rewards—could come to dominate. For Wikipedia to reject this steady stream of money, to throw up objections based on principle, would perhaps seem as quixotic and stubborn as those homeowners who turn down a big check from a real estate developer planning a new skyscraper. The building usually goes up anyway, while the house sits in its shadows, a relic of the past. And the owner has missed out on a big payday to boot. After decades, Wikipedia is choosing to work with the forces of commercial development. Not to strain the analogy, but it hopes to start relationships that can bring some sensible urban planning to the Internet, with the equivalent of parks, affordable housing and, crucially, restraints on runaway development. One can only hope that it finds partners worthy of such faith. Wikipedia Is Finally Asking Big Tech to Pay Up
  5. How Wikipedia Prevents the Spread of Coronavirus Misinformation A group of hawk-eyed experts operate on a special track to monitor medical information on the site. Photograph: Getty Images “This edit was VERY poor,” wrote James Heilman, an emergency-room doctor in British Columbia, to a Wikipedia contributor who had made a couple of changes toward the end of the article on the new coronavirus outbreak. Those edits recommended a special type of mask for blocking the transmission of the virus from those who have it, and Heilman, a prominent figure in reviewing medical Wikipedia articles, wanted to inform the editor that this advice was too sweeping and based on insufficient evidence. More than that, he aimed to send a warning. “Please do not make edits like this again,” he wrote. Wikipedia’s reputation is generally on the ascent. Just last month, no less a publication than Wired deemed it “the last best place on the Internet.” What was once considered the site’s greatest vulnerability—that anyone can edit it—has been revealed to be its greatest strength. In the place of experts there are enthusiasts who are thrilled to share their knowledge of a little part of the world with all of humanity. As Richard Cooke, who wrote the Wired essay, observed: “It’s assembled grain by grain, like a termite mound. The smallness of the grains, and of the workers carrying them, makes the project’s scale seem impossible. But it is exactly this incrementalism that puts immensity within reach.” His point, and it’s really indisputable, is that this mammoth online project has developed a personality, a purpose, a soul. Now, as the new coronavirus outbreak plays out across its many pages, we can see that Wikipedia has also developed a conscience. The coronavirus articles on English Wikipedia are part of WikiProject Medicine, a collection of some 35,000 articles that are watched over by nearly 150 editors with interest and expertise in medicine and public health. (A survey for a paper co-written by Heilman in 2015 concluded that roughly half of the core editors had an advanced degree.) Readers of Wikipedia wouldn’t know that an article is part of the project—the designation appears on a separate talk page and really serves as a head’s up to interested editors to look carefully at the entries. Once an article has been flagged as relating to medicine, the editors scrutinize the article with an exceptional ferocity. While typically an article in The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal would be a reliable source for Wikipedia, the medical editors insist on peer-reviewed papers, textbooks or reports from prominent centers and institutes. On these subjects, Wikipedia doesn’t seem like the encyclopedia anyone can edit, striving to be welcoming to newcomers; it certainly doesn’t profess a laid-back philosophy that articles improve over time and can start off a bit unevenly. The editor chastised by Heilman hasn’t returned to the article and instead is improving articles about sound-recording equipment. By having these different standards within its pages, Wikipedia can be a guide to the big commercial platforms that have become way stations for fake cures, bogus comparisons to past outbreaks, and political spin. Twitter, Amazon, YouTube, and Facebook have all promised to cleanse their sites of this dangerous disinformation; but they are doing so in fits and starts and by relying in part on familiar, passive tools like acting when others flag dangerous content. Here is how Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg put it in a post on March 3: “It’s important that everyone has a place to share their experiences and talk about the outbreak, but as our community standards make clear, it’s not okay to share something that puts people in danger. So we’re removing false claims and conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations. We’re also blocking people from running ads that try to exploit the situation—for example, claiming that their product can cure the disease.” Wikipedia shows, however, that extreme circumstances, especially when related to public health, require different, more stringent rules, not better application of existing rules. The stakes are simply too high. I spoke this week with the Wikipedia editor who guided the article about the new coronavirus from a one-sentence item in early January to a substantial article with charts of infections around the world. She goes by the handle Whispyhistory, and is a doctor in South London; she spoke via Skype from her office, which she proudly noted had a new thermometer that looks like a laser gun. Whispyhistory has only been contributing for three years; she was recruited through an edit-a-thon at a medical library. While at first she was open with her colleagues about her side project, now she prefers to remain anonymous. “You start getting hounded by people about what you are writing,” she said. “It’s just so much easier to not use your real name.” WikiProject Medicine welcomed her, she said, but she’s had to build a reputation for accuracy and responsibility. “You have to know what you are saying,” she said, and even so it can be intimidating. “You’ve got so many people watching you.” The picture she paints of the project’s contributors is akin to the staff of a demanding teaching hospital. The editors confer on a talk page she calls “the doctors’ mess” where they perform “triage” to assess which articles require attention immediately. Science and data reign; and above all else, the pledge is to do no harm. On January 6, she said, a colleague asked her if she had heard of an outbreak of atypical pneumonia in China. She hadn’t, but “being someone who writes for Wikipedia, the first thing you do is see if it’s on Wikipedia. Someone had written the article the day before.” The article was thin, but Whispyhistory had the sense that “this might be something big,” so she added the WikiProject Medicine tag to the article and wrote a note informing her colleagues to pay attention to the outbreak, which they did. Like a young resident, she pulled all-nighters before showing up at the office at 6 a.m., keeping a watch over the article as the virus spread. In those early days, for instance, she saw a note on the doctors’ mess that linked to a news report claiming that the new coronavirus could survive on surfaces for nine hours. The author wanted to add that information to the Wikipedia page immediately. “That already sends an alert since there is nothing that’s really so important that you’ve got to add something straight away,” she recalled. She went from the news article to the paper that it cited, and discovered that it was looking at the SARS virus, not the (very similar) one that causes Covid-19. She decided not to include the research. As Heilman put it in an email, “Keeping Wikipedia reliable and up-to-date involves deleting material just as much as adding it.” I asked both him and Whispyhistory how the article on the new coronavirus managed to exclude the arguments that were being made (at least until recently) by President Trump and his supporters—that the disease is being hyped by Democrats and that it’s comparable to the flu. Don’t they have angry wannabe contributors accusing Wikipedia of bias? “That’s really easy to answer. ... You have to cite everything you write,” Whispyhistory said. Heilman agreed that a requirement for legitimate sourcing filters out unfounded notions. Bogus claims about the pandemic do show up on Wikipedia, but in a separate article: “Misinformation related to the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic,” under the heading “Misinformation by governments/United States.” Heilman noted that Wikipedia has a structural advantage over the big social networks: “It takes more time and effort to disrupt Wikipedia than it does to restore Wikipedia to a reliable level. It’s the exact opposite on Twitter and Facebook, where it takes a second to spread false news,” while getting those lies removed will take a lot of time and effort. Unless Twitter, Facebook and the others can learn to address misinformation more effectively, Wikipedia will remain the last best place on the Internet. WIRED is providing unlimited free access to stories about the coronavirus pandemic. Sign up for our Coronavirus Update to get the latest in your inbox. Source: How Wikipedia Prevents the Spread of Coronavirus Misinformation (Wired)
  6. Turkey lifts ban on Wikipedia for the first time since 2017 Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the country’s ban on Wikipedia is a violation of freedom of speech. Following the ruling, the Wikimedia Foundation said that internet service providers have begun restoring access to the site. The block, which was first introduced in April 2017, was allegedly introduced because Wikimedia wouldn’t delete pages which said that the Turkish government had co-operated with IS and Al-Qaeda in Syria. Commenting on the unblocking of Wikipedia, Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said: “We are thrilled to be reunited with the people of Turkey. At Wikimedia we are committed to protecting everyone’s fundamental right to access information. We are excited to share this important moment with our Turkish contributor community on behalf of knowledge-seekers everywhere.” According to the Wikimedia Foundation, a case they filed with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is still being considered. The petition was launched in the spring of last year and the Court granted the case priority status in July. Going forward, it’s unclear whether the government will try to find another way to block access to the website. The Wikimedia Foundation has said it’s reviewing the full text of the ruling by the Constitutional Court of Turkey and will continue to advocate for free expression in Turkey and around the world. It also appears to be keeping the petition open that it filed with the ECHR. Source: Wikimedia Foundation via BBC News Source: Turkey lifts ban on Wikipedia for the first time since 2017 (Neowin)
  7. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales thinks he can create a better social network. Called WT:Social, the network has no financial association with Wikipedia, but operates on a similar business model: donations, not advertising. WT:Social went live last month and is currently nearing 50,000 users. The company is rolling out access slowly; when I signed up, I was approximately number 28,000 on the waitlist. Alternatively, you can pay 13 bucks a month or 100 a year to get access right away. In comments to the Financial Times, Wales said “The business model of social media companies, of pure advertising, is problematic. It turns out the huge winner is low-quality content.” You don’t say. WT:Social’s interface is rather sparse at the moment, featuring a simple feed comprised of news stories and comments below them. News is a big part of the network; it’s a spinoff of Wales’ previous project, WikiTribune, which sought to be a global news site comprised of professional journalists and citizen contributors. Both WikiTribune and WT:Social emphasize combatting fake news, highlighting evidence-based coverage over the focus on ‘engagement’ seen on other networks. Each story posted to the network makes prominent where the article comes from, as well as sources and references. You can also join various “SubWikis” that are essentially like Facebook groups or subreddits, which filter content to stories of a given topic. You can also add hashtags to a post or follow hashtags for more specific interests that might span more than one SubWiki. Posts are currently sorted chronologically, but the site plans to add an upvote system for users to promote quality stories. Taking on Facebook and Twitter is no easy task: Just ask Google. But Wales appears to have a more focused approach for WT:Social, aiming for meaningful content and hoping to build smaller, niche communities. To this end, Wales doesn’t seem too concerned about running on donations; the Financial Times says Wales highlighted the success of Netflix and the New York times as examples that people are willing to pay for meaningful content. I suppose we’ll find out if that’s true in due time. Source
  8. More than 260 billion people Wiki’d something or other in 2019, and the overwhelming majority of them apparently shared a similar question: What the hell did I just watch? Wikipedia revealed its most popular English articles of the year, as compiled by researcher Andrew West, in a blog post Friday, and nearly all of them relate to the movies, TV shows, and video games that dominated our social media feeds at one point or another. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the most viewed Wikipedia page of 2019: Avengers: Endgame, the epic conclusion to Marvel’s decade-long story arc and Google’s most-searched movie of the year as well, according to its own year-end statistics. Endgame’s Wiki page clocked in at 44 million page views for the year, according to the nonprofit online encyclopedia’s post. Likely from folks trying to wrap their head around the time-traveling plot threads it juggles (because six infinity stones weren’t already hard enough to keep track of without timey wimey wibbly wobbly voodoo). Other media phenomenons, some of them infamously polarizing like Game of Thrones and Todd Phillips’ Joker, appeared throughout the list as well. “Sixteen of the top 25 articles are related to the media people consumed in theaters and on their devices. At least five of those are directly fueled by the dominance of superhero films, including all three films released by Marvel in 2019,” the post stated. A few top contenders also seemed to be tangentially inspired by popular media: Chernobyl disaster came in at number five, likely due to HBO’s mini-series about the incident, and Ted Bundy—the real-life serial killer at the center of Netflix’s biopic Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile—made the top three with nearly 30 million page views. Bucking this trend, Wikipedia’s list of 2019's famous deaths came in just behind Endgame with nearly 37 million page views (for reference, last year’s list made the top spot, even beating out the World Cup and Marvel’s companion blockbuster: Avengers: Infinity War). In addition to that, goth Lorde—aka Billie Eilish—was the only entertainer whose Wikipedia page breached the top 10. Her first album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 list in March, and in writing this blog I learned she’s the first 2000s baby to do so. That fact has turned me to dust and all that you’re reading was published posthumously. The top 10 most popular Wikipedia pages of 2019 and their corresponding page view counts are listed below: Avengers: Endgame, 43,847,319 pageviews Deaths in 2019, 36,916,847 pageviews Ted Bundy, 29,062,988 pageviews Freddie Mercury, 26,858,123 pageviews Chernobyl disaster, 25,195,814 pageviews List of highest-grossing films, 24,547,640 pageviews Joker (2019 film), 22,062,357 pageviews List of Marvel Cinematic Universe films, 21,467,603 pageviews Billie Eilish, 19,638,478 pageviews Keanu Reeves, 16,622,576 pageviews Wikipedia’s blog post lays out the rest if you’re curious. Though if you’re interested in its most popular pages behind the top 25, West went on to compile the top 5,000, which you can check out here. Go wild. Source
  9. In December 2018, the Indian government proposed changes to its Intermediaries Guidelines that govern how websites in India with more than 5 million users will operate and host content in India. According to the proposed amendments, such intermediaries are required to: Set up a permanent registered office in India with a physical address Appoint a nodal person of contact for coordination with law enforcement agencies Amanda Keton, general counsel of Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit group that operates Wikipedia, has written an open letter to the minister of Electronics and Information Technology, Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, expressing her concerns. She writes that Wikipedia operates on an open editing model, and the required provisions could lead to a “significant financial burden” on nonprofit technology organizations. It could also limit free expression rights for internet users in the country. The proposed changes in the Intermediaries Guidelines intend to make the internet safer for Indian citizens by formulating rules for it. The rules also require intermediaries to automatically filter out unlawful information and content by deploying automated tools. Other nonprofit organizations, including Mozilla and Github, also wrote a joint letter saying that the upcoming rules “would significantly expand surveillance requirements on internet services.” Last month, Wikipedia received 771 million page views from India, which is its fifth-largest market in the world. In her open letter, Keton has asked the Ministry to release a new draft of rules which take into consideration all the expressed concerns. Source
  10. Wikipedia is getting its first desktop redesign in 10 years The entire redesign should be complete by the end of 2021 Wikipedia has been an integral part of web culture for nearly twenty years, letting users browse its millions of text-heavy, crowd-sourced encyclopedia entries from their computer, tablet, or phone. Now, the overall look of Wikipedia on desktop is getting a makeover for the first time in a decade to make the site more approachable for new users. You can browse all the proposed new features in this MediaWiki post, and there are some animated GIFs to show you what they might look like. Personally, I really like how the new table of contents feature looks. I tend to curiously read Wiki pages of public figures and this could make it a lot easier to skip past certain sections of a page without having to scroll down on my computer. This will make it much easier to navigate longer pages! Image: Wikipedia A collapsible sidebar will be the first change to roll out; this will allow users to collapse the menu on the left side of each page, to minimize distractions, and limit irrelevant content and links on the left of your screen to make it easier to focus. The site will also add an easy one-click button to switch the language for a page you’re reading. Wikipedia will also add improvements to the in-site search tool to make it easier to find other pages and will reconfigure the logo to make it smaller on each Wikipedia page. Image: Wikipedia Wikimedia Foundation, the site’s parent company, announced in a blog post that the changes will happen “incrementally over a long period of time,” allowing users to test the new features before they officially roll out, but that it plans to redesign the entire look of the desktop version of Wikipedia by the end of 2021. It didn’t say whether the mobile version would receive the same redesign. Wikipedia is getting its first desktop redesign in 10 years
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