Thursday, August 30, 2007
The power of LinkedIn
So I had a look to see whom my contacts in that city were. Nope, none of them were David Brent. Nor Tim Canterbury. Not even Keith Bishop.
Technocrati tags: LinkedIn, The Office
Monday, August 20, 2007
Expanding my vocabulary
And I can't imagine how a support group for this would work.
Technocrati tags: Online communities
Monday, August 06, 2007
More Wikimania transcripts
- Seth Anthony's "Analysis of Content Generators" - http://www.aboutus.org/Analysis_of_Wikipedia_content_creators
- Erik Moeller's "Sharing information between Wikis" - http://www.aboutus.org/ways_of_sharing_information_between_wikis
- Jimmy Wales and Gil Penchina Discuss Wikia
- Discussion on the Future of Wikis - http://www.aboutus.org/Notes_from_the_future_of_wikis_discussion_at_Wikimania_2007
- Evan Prodromou on "Social networking tools" - http://www.aboutus.org/Notes_from_Evan%27s_talk_on_Social_Networking_Tools_at_WikiMania_2007
- Brion Vibber on Single Unified Logon (I couldn't match this to a presentation -- was this from the recap of the Open Hacking session?)
- Brian Behlendorf's "Open Source compared with more traditional corporate development projects" - http://www.aboutus.org/WM2007_-_Brian_Behlendorf_on_OpenSource
- Jo Ito's Plenary, "On the Sharing Economy"
Technocrati tags: Wikimania 2007, Wikimania, Wikipedia
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Considering some Wikimania sessions
But after that presentation, the report of what was shared at this year's conference dries up. Only after clicking at random on one link did I discover a rough draft of a transcript to the panel discussion "The shifting nature of the English Wikipedia community". One could say that this is a continuation of Andrew Lih's post, "Unwanted: New articles in Wikipedia", but there is more to consider here. One point is that this is a fascinating example of how fast the Wikipedia community can move: Andrew posted his comments on the tenth of last month, and it has become a central issue at Wikimania. However, a more important one is one damning comment this transcript records on the state of the English Wikipedia (I have cleaned it up for readability reasons):
from the Hebrew Wikipedia, we have the benefit of learning from some of en's mistakes. Right now on the Hebrew Wikipedia it is considered unfashionable to say 'look, en:wp has this nice process and they have CSD G11...' When someone says that, it usually means he's about to be blocked. From our perspective... there are bigger Wikipedias we can learn from, the German Wikipedia seems to be better; they understand each other better and have less bureaucracy.
I wonder how many transcripts of various sessions, even in such a rough state, await discovery in the Wikimania website.
One example of a session I would like to know more about is Jon Philip's "Wikibiblio: A Community-based Bibliographic System." I like the idea of creating a standardized system to cite sources on Wikipedia, but long experience has taught me that what sounds good in a summary may not be a practical, functioning thing; I wanted to know more about it. The "Discuss" icon linked to "Wikimania:Forum/Technical Infrastructure", which had only a few cryptic notes about the subject. Philip's personal website failed to mention anything about "WikiBiblio". Frustrated, I resorted to Google to find something about this -- but found nothing clearly relevant to the topic. Although it led me to this intreguing proof of a concept created back in July, 2005. I have no idea if this is what Philip intended to discuss.
Technocrati tags: Wikimania2007, Wikimania, wikipedia
Friday, August 03, 2007
It was a warm night, the kind of darkness that lures people to malinger outdoors, not chase them inside. Time has been flying by so fast this year that I have a hard time accepting that it is August already, and that the kids will be returning to school in only a few weeks. As I count the days of summer, it is more than half over and I haven't had a chance to really enjoy it.
One of the streets I drove on to my home, Ainsworth, has a strip of grass and trees dividing the street into two. This strip is not very wide, and in daylight everything on it is visible to anyone. As I drove down Ainsworth, I passed a pair of people sitting on the grass, talking. For them, the darkness made this piece of the grass dividing Ainsworth into a private place that they obviously felt gave them sanctuary. Well, that's what I might think when I was their age.
When I thought this, I remembered in a few months I would turn fifty. I felt old. When I don't remember my age when I do things, do I behave foolishly?
Technocrati tags: age, summer
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
When the Going turns Surreal, only Criminals will own Librarians
Last week came Slashdot's "revelation" that Slim Virgin is a spy, allegedly a female James Bond. When I had encountered this story long ago, the allegation was far less exotic: that "Slim Virgin" was the screen name of one Linda Mack, an eccentric college student who lost someone close to her (either a family member or a friend) on the Lockaby air plane crash, and volunteered a lot of her time and energy into finding the people responsible. Because Mack worked with the British MI5, some appraently think this made her a spy -- although what I read never made it clear that Mack did more than obsess over who brought down the plane and bothered a lot of people.
Or "Slim Virgin" is the screen name of one Sarah McEwan, a resident of Canada. That is plausible because Slim Virgin at one time signed her posts with a first name "Sarah" -- assuming that was her given name, and not a nickname or a pseudonym. (This is not just another bit of idle speculation: my grandmother preferred to be called "Roberta" instead of her birth name of "Ethyl", a detail that caused a minor bit of confusion when I severed as administrator for her estate after her death.)
Or that all three women are the same person. At that point, I remarked to myself that all of this was mildly interesting -- and if true, more interesting than any equivalent period in my own life -- and thought no more about it. All of this didn't appear to have any relation to Slim Virgin's behavior on Wikipedia as far as I could discern, and I concentrated on my own projects on Wikipedia -- which she did not participate in.
Let me be clear on this. My involvement with Wikipedia does not spring out of some desire to make the whole project conform to my own image of what it should be, just to share facts and ideas with other people that I find in my reading. As long as other Wikipedians do not interfere with that, I won't interfere with what they do. Periodically I do get involved in matters I don't need to, but often I find that I can't control my anger, which leads me to write or do things that I wish I hadn't. I'm not the skilled diplomat many other Wikipedians are, and often I feel my intervention has only made a bad situation worse. So I'd rather assume that other Wikipedians are doing their jobs well and tend to my own garden within that project.
Besides, so what if she is a female version of James Bond? As long as she doesn't resort to some black ops tactics to resolve disputes (even if that is the only way to settle them), is it a problem? Maybe she can draw on that experience to improve some articles.
However, as Kelly Martin and others have pointed out, the way this has been handled has only made things worse: removing material from article histories only creates more controversy, not less. A simple denial is all that is needed to handle this surreal rumor.
Speaking of surreal, we have the case of Oldwindybear. (No link to his user page because he asked for it to be deleted.) He was made an Admin on the English Wikipedia a couple of weeks ago, then resigned the post and quit the project entirely last week. Apparently he had a couple of sockpuppets -- a claim I still can't get my head around. Here's the evidence, so you can decide for yourself. It's just that from my experience with the guy, I can't think of any reason he would want (or need) sockpuppets: he was well enough liked and respected under his own username to become an Admin. (His nomination carried 66-0 and one neutral.) How would he benefit by doing this? We only saw one part of Oldwindybear, the persona he presented to Wikipedia, and never truly knew what he was thinking.
As a result of this surprise, there was a thread on the Requests for Administrator Talk page about how the process was completely broken, it needed to be changed, et cetera. All this incident proves is that online is not better than face-to-face communication. I trusted Oldwindybear based on my own experience with him; if he had done all of this, then he pulled a successful con, and only a minor mistake gave himself away.
I don't agree with Tlogmer that requiring Administrators to furnish (or use) their real names would solve problems like this. For example, I happen to share the same name as a car dealer in Australia. I don't know how trustworthy car dealers are considered in Australia, but in America they are not well thought of, and I don't need to risk confusing people that I am one. If anyone wonders who is really behind the name "llywrch", a Google search ought to answer that.
All of this agitation over an encyclopedia is confusing. It would make more sense if people fought over a piece of extremely soft Camembert. To quote another Wikipedian, it's just a website. Even if someone like me gained complete control over it and forced articles to contain only one set of opinions (say, adding to the George W. Bush article that he is a war criminal and has inexplicably avoided impeachment), what would be the result? There are thousands of websites who advocate those same ideas, and Bush is still president of the United States.
I'm puzzled how a love for libraries and reading could create the surreal environment Wikipedia is at the point of becoming. While some might argue that Surrealism was a creative movement, even Surrealists lose their muses.
Technocrati tags: identity, online communities, wikipedia