Archive for the 'Tech News' Category

Wikipedia Weekly 14

March 11, 2007

… is now up, and available here. Go download it, right now.


Apparently, I’m awesome

March 10, 2007

Or so says Jonathon Stokes, the co-founder of a hitherto unknown-to-me site called ValueWiki. Look, I’m up there at number 1! (Err, technically that’s Wikipedia Weekly, not me. But I get a personal mention.. that counts for something, right?)

Indeed, that’s a pretty good list to look at, and I follow a number of blogs that it lists. Among the others that get a mention are Citizendium’s official blog at number three, Geoff Burling (one of the most knowledgeable Wikipedians I know), and, surprisingly enough, Jimmy Wales. Jimmy rarely posts to his blog, but it’s usually worth reading when he does.

To go a little beyond this list, I could also point to Wikimedias who blog at Meta, or better yet, the very excellent sites Wiki Blog Planet (which seems to be identical to Open Wiki Blog Planet) and Planet Wikimedia.

Go subscribe to some lists, or something. In the meantime, I’ll ponder the question: is Jonathon Stokes the Jonathon Stokes?

Wikimania 2007

March 10, 2007

I’m not much of a conference guy. I remember volunteering to help at Linux.Conf.Au when it came to Canberra in 2005, but that’s about it. However, I’m fairly certain I’ll be attending the annual Wikipedia/Wikimedia meetup, Wikimania, when it hits Taiwan in early August.

If I’m lucky enough to go this year, it would be in the semi-official self-important role of “Podcaster d00d”, along with Andrew, Liam and hopefully the mysterious Tawker and others. In general, we’ll be involved with covering the event in the spirit of citizen journalism; recordings of each talk will presumably be made available online, but we’ll be concerned with recording as much of the event as we think would be interesting. That includes attendees’ comments, interviews with the speakers, and so on.

We already have a few ideas for how this could be done. Here are a few:

  • We could produce a shortened episode of the podcast for each day of the conference. This would probably run for half an hour or less, and preferably include a rundown of the day’s events, ideally including a brief audio clip from each talk and perhaps a quick chat with a few speakers.
  • Brief interviews with attendees, from which we could extract 3-4 soundbites to be interspersed through the day’s episode.
  • Video recordings of the day. Due to bandwidth concerns, these would probably need to be limited in duration and so lend themselves best to short interviews and the like. We’ll need to find a decent camera for this.
  • An audio workshop, running through our methods for recording the podcast. This would probably be of interest to the Wikiversity crowd, as that project has made heavier use of user-produced audio than most others.

I’m sure there are plenty more ideas to be had on that front. Even if I can’t personally go, Andrew will certainly be in a position to go through with at least a few of the above and probably more besides. I’ll create this page at Wikipedia in a little while so can collect a list of ideas for the event, and I’d love to hear what other people think we could do.

How to influence people

February 27, 2007

Larry Sanger’s Citizendium is just drowning in good press these days. Unfortunately for the site, two slashdottings later the site is still struggling to keep up a decent rate of expansion: the “Big Write” project fizzled, and hundreds of new users in just a few days have done little in terms of writing new content. So, when Ars Technica’s Nate Anderson posted a glowing three-page review of the Wikipedia alternative, it was another chance for Citizendium to leap to the big time.

However, the resulting discussion thread turned out a little differently. The response was overwhelmingly negative, despite the best efforts of Citizendium’s Jason Potkanski, an Ars reader and forum denizen himself.

This is where the story gets interesting, though. It seems that Larry saw the discussion thread, which had been linked to on his site’s official blog, and decided to take a read. Here is his response (emphasis mine):

Jason, why do you waste your time in that discussion? Clearly you’re dealing with a bunch of jackals there who simply hate the idea of the project. There will be only more and more such people as we become more and more successful. No one cared much last September, so we only had a few negative reactions, all of them saying that it can’t work; but now that we’ve got over 1,000 articles, many hundreds of participants, consistently well over 500 edits per day (and pushing toward 1000 regularly), with scores of regular contributors…well, some people are evidently starting to feel threatened by us.



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Baby steps forward

February 26, 2007

Big Things are happening at Larry Sanger’s Citizendium. Things like “The Big Delete“, in which the project “unforked” itself from Wikipedia by deleting most of their derivative content; “The Big Speedydelete“, in which they deleted “probably over 1,000 pages” of other crap; and “The Big Cleanup“. Most recently, though, Citizendium has launched itself into the next Big Thing: the imaginatively named “Big Write“.

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Citizendium struggles to convert publicity into content

February 14, 2007

Citizendium was slashdotted again recently, prompting the creation of 900 new user accounts in the last 24 hours. So, following up from my recent post on their last slashdotting, how has this affected the site’s performance?

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Citizendium since the slashdotting

February 9, 2007

Following on from the recent slashdotting of Citizendium, I thought it might be worth breaking down the numbers to see how they’re faring since the article ran. They appear to have weathered the ‘Slashdot effect’, which involves ten of thousands of geeks descending upon a page in a short space of time (usually bringing it to its knees in the process), but how has the publicity affected the project itself?

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Astroturfing Wikipedia, literally

February 9, 2007

From the Wikipedia Signpost:

In a case of living up (or down?) to its contribution to the English language, AstroTurf became the object of an astroturfing effort on Wikipedia. A public relations firm for the brand was revealed to have been editing the article, as well as that of a competing brand of artificial turf, FieldTurf.

Well, at least they weren’t entirely retarded.

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Citizendium isn’t interested in your opinion

February 7, 2007

A couple of days ago I created a page at Citizendium that demonstrated my thoughts on how to effectively keep large numbers of editors informed of ongoing requests for article approval, and emailed the Citizendium-L mailing list about it.

Here is the reply I received (screenshot here):

Posting of your message titled “Centralised location for approval nominations”has been rejected by the list moderator. The moderator gave the following reason for rejecting your request:

“David Still,

You’re not an editor; yet not only are you attempting to engineer our editorial process, you are trying to *lead* the engineering of the editorial process. All of this without consulting the editor-in-chief or, as far as I know, even any actual editor. You are not welcome to participate in this way, particularly since you have proven that you lack the good sense and diplomacy to know how to work with actual adults.

Please leave this up to the actual editors.

Larry Sanger”

Any questions or comments should be directed to the list administrator

Let me express my profound disappointment in this turn of events. The demonstration was moved to my userspace just after the above email was sent, without any discussion of its merits anywhere — the forum thread was again ignored, and Larry has yet to explain why the idea itself was bad or unwanted.

Now to point out some choice quotes from the above email.

“All of this without consulting the editor-in-chief or, as far as I know, even any actual editor.”

Let me count the ways. First, my opinions on the matter were made quite clear weeks ago at Ars Technica, and were responded to by Mike Johnson — a member of Citizendium’s editorial committee. Good communication++;

Next, I blogged about it here, and was personally responded to by both Mike and Larry Sanger. At this point I chose to post about it on the Citizendium forums, and was pleased to see that Mike Johnson again replied and expressed pleasure with the specific suggestion that I chose to demonstrate:

You’re absolutely right. We’re not using said page as much as we should. I’ve linked to it from Category:Approved Articles and the page you suggested. I also think it should be on the main page, but I’m unsure of exactly where to slip it in. If you find yourself inspired, go ahead and add it.

Your suggestion that a more distinct, structured place should be set aside for comments on articles up for approval also sounds good, and that actually ties in with something more sweeping we’d like to implement- threaded forums attached to articles instead of flat talk pages. I can’t speak to the timeframe involved, however.

Okay — so far, so good. Having created this thread, though, I decided to publicise it a little to see if I could get some more participation there; it had, and still has, largely been ignored. As such, I emailed the Citizendium-L list; I know that Larry read this email, and presumably saw the link therein, because as list moderator he have to have seen it in order to reject it. If it hadn’t, either he neglected to read it in the first place, or someone else moderated the email for him and neglected to pass it on. Again, good communication++;

The second quote would be this one:

Please leave this up to the actual editors.

Given the state that Citizendium is in, I’d rather not.

UPDATE: Soon after the above email, I asked him to clarify his reasoning. Here’s my email, and Larry’s reply:

Spot the ad hominem.

UPDATE 2: But wait, it gets better!


Please. Larry, discounting someone’s suggestions on grounds as dubious as those is bigoted at best, especially in light of your own amazing egotism.

Making Approval not suck

February 6, 2007

I’ve started to put my money where my oversized mouth is, and fix some of the problems currently present at Citizendium. Tonight, I put together a centralised list of current nominations, organised chronologically, so that editors can easily keep track of articles that need review — and a straightforward method of adding to it. It may not sound like much, but compared to what we had previously it is a big step forward. The process is a modified version of Wikipedia’s editor review process, which I helped to set up based in turn on the RfA nomination process.

Check it out here, or read the post I made about it on the forum. I also sent the following email to the Citizendium-L mailing list:

Hello, world,

Further to the discussion I started in the forums regarding my
criticism of the Citizendium Approval process, I’ve addressed one of
my major concerns directly by creating a centralised, chronological
list of article nominations here:

Please take a look at that page — and the pages that the input box
links to — as well as the example I’ve provided (for “Biology”, since
it’s as convenient as any), and consider posting your opinion in the
forum thread, which can be found here:,514.0.html


Let’s hope this is a step forward.

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