Thursday, February 14, 2008


We need attention, so let's insult Wikipedia

Pete Forsyth posted the well-deserved rant at a local historical society to the Portland Wiki-Wednesday list:


Today's Oregonian carried a story about a joint project, , by the Oregon Historical Society and the Portland State University History Department. In short, they're preparing the site for the state's 2009 sesquicentennial celebration, and soliciting $1 to 2 million to fund the project.

Unfortunately, OHS presented their project in contrast with Wikipedia, in terms that are both unflattering and ill-informed.

In the last week, Wikiproject Oregon got the Oregon Portal, an introduction to Wikipedia's Oregon-related content, to "Featured Portal" status, joining only 98 other portals in the world. Last month, the article on the Oregon State Capitol was featured on the front page of Wikipedia, drawing over 22,000 visitors in a single day. But our proudest accomplishment is the collegial environment we're building, in which diverse Oregonians have collaborated to shed light on innumerable interesting bits of Oregon history. Even including a couple significant corrections to the historical record. All this has been accomplished without a single financial donation (although Wikipedia as a whole does solicit donations worldwide.)

Please check out related discussion here:!

We will be working up a press release of our own, and hope to generate some press coverage for our project.

I am also considering buying a few domain names, such as or, and having them point to

As Aboutmovies noted in the discussion on Wikipedia, "I guess having their site up for a few months wasn't working (what 20 entries) so they had to issue a press release. Though I fail to see much of a difference. They want volunteer writers, we have volunteer writers. They want reliable, we want reliable. They just have access to a crap load of good pictures. Otherwise I'm not impressed. Looks like Oregon History Project II, wikistyle."

Sheesh, at least Larry Singer has a reason to be pick on Wikipedia. These folks could have played it smart, put the material under a free license, used the articles in Wikipedia as a starting point and improved them, then encouraged Wikipedia to reuse their content to fix our shortcomings. No, they decided to offend the largest body of the volunteers they need, then start saying that they need money -- and put their content under a restrictive license.

With diplomatic smarts like that, I bet you all that in 12 months the site will be dead.


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Friday, February 08, 2008


Piecemeal updates

I've been busy with many things that keep me away from my computer, as well as this blog, so I'm way behind in updating anyone who is still reading. But let me provide a paragraph or two on the most important things.

1. At the age of fifty, I've become a father for the first time. Which is the primary reason why I haven't written any new posts. We adopted Rachel Kendra Claire, to give her the name we selected; her birth mother named her Rachel Lynn. She was born Friday at 5:02 am; we got to take her home Sunday afternoon, and I took the next three days off work to be with my girls. I plan on taking a month off to help in the child-raising when Yvette's stock of vacation time has run out.

To anticipate the next question, you can find pictures of her at And one of those pictures leads to the next item.

2. First impressions on John Broughton's book, Wikipedia: The Missing Manual. My review copy arrived Monday, and in the time between changing diapers, feeding Rachel et cetera, I managed to glance through the first two hundred pages. Although I have some criticisms of the book, overall it is a solid and comprehensive look at not only the technology one uses to edit Wikipedia, but also a levelheaded discussion of the community and how to work with it. Not only would newcomers benefit from reading it, but I believe that veterans like me would be served by keeping it nearby to help with the numerous policies, fora and nifty software tools of Wikipedia.

3. I became a member of the Working Group on ethnic and cultural edit wars. One of the chronic problems of Wikipedia has been to handle the nationalistic rivalries that arise from having both an encyclopedia that is open to all and from following the Neutral Point of View policy. One of my other members is Milos Rancic, with whom I have had many thoughtful discussions on this issue, and I look forward to seeing his input on many more. (A recent example is his post on art and ethnic strife.)

One of my hopes, besides reaching out to some of the members of WikiProject Africa, is to post a number of my position papers here, in hope of attracting more input -- or perhaps to explain some of the Working Group's ideals.

Last Wednesday was WikiWednesday, which brings me to my last two points:

4. Pete Forsyth's vision of WikiGovernment. He presented this vision of using Wiki technology to improve popular representation Wednesday night, and although there are many weaknesses, I stand by the first comment I made that night: almost any problem one could envision for this project has been encountered by Wikipedia. In many cases these problems were handled successfully, and in many cases they were handled poorly -- yet studying what Wikipedia did would be the first step to address the problem when it appears in Pete's project.

5. A new map of the World Wide Web Joe Cohen brought a schematic map created by Information Architects, showing the most important Web sites, and based on the Tokyo subway map. Maps always attract my attention, but I could not take mine off of this one. (A more recent one can be seen here).


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