The New Yorker Wikipedia article now has an update of how the Wikipedia site administrator "Essjay" "was described in the piece as "a tenured professor of religion at a private university" with "a Ph.D. in theology and a degree in canon law.", but in reality he "now says that his real name is Ryan Jordan, that he is twenty-four and holds no advanced degrees, and that he has never taught. He was recently hired by Wikia - a for-profit company affiliated with Wikipedia - as a "community manager"; he continues to hold his Wikipedia positions."
Seth Gordon has a hyperlinked version, Nick Carr publicized it first Stephen J. Dubner at Freaknomics notes "This is hardly a felony, but it does make you wonder about what else happens at Wikipedia that Jimmy Wales doesn't have a problem with."
The obvious snark here is that his biography was like a Wikipedia article - if you don't like it, you can edit it to suit yourself. But the changes may not stick (still, it might have an effect in the time period before it's reverted ...).
But more seriously, I think the "what else happens" question is the most relevant point. Remember, Wikipedia's main innovation is not knowledge generation, but deflecting criticism of bad quality control (and that's not a joke).
As an even slightly "respectable" (using the term generously and very loosely ...) critic of Wikipedia, these days I'm walking a fine line vis-a-vis harsher Wikipedia critics, on various topics. I don't have the heart to write public posts on where I think they're very wrong, because I don't like kicking underdogs. So I'm finding myself in the middle in trying to say, these people may not be completely right, but they're working off real problems. Basically, the harsh critic says roughly "Something doesn't add up here - it must be a [CIA operation|radical agenda|plot to take over the world ...]". Most people's reaction is "That's nuts! CIA? What nonsense!". But I find myself in the unhappy position of writing privately to the critic, "Well, it's really, really, unlikely to be the CIA, you definitely shouldn't talk like that, but, hmm, that stuff sure does sound odd, not sure what it all means though", and then getting irritated when the Wikicultians are bleating "Problem? What problem? Join us and drink the Kool-Aid of glorious free work!"
Sadly, there's so much money in Kool-Aid sales, and none in skepticism of any sort :-(
But then, you knew that already ...
Finally, the bill would loosen the grip of the DMCA, which restricts circumvention of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions even for lawful uses. The FAIR Use Act adds 12 exemptions, including the ability to circumvent for classic fair use purposes like news reporting, research, commentary, and criticism.
Broader DMCA and copyright reform remains absolutely necessary, but if passed this bill would be a big first step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, I doubt my blogging about it will do any good, because of preaching to choir (or to the "opposition researchers", but same thing).
[Update: memesterbation (linking because everyone else is linking ...) ]
[An echo, but one that isn't me-too - an article reporting on an event in India:]
daijiworld.com: Wikipedia Search Engine Launch by Year-end, Says Founder:
Wales also said that the Wiki Search engine, part of Wikia, a commercial venture that he floated in 2004, is due for launch before the end of this year. ...
"The Wikipedia project only uses two programmers and donations provide sustenance. Contrast that with Wikia, which has 31 employees, including 25 programmers. The search project alone would need hundreds of servers. We would need investments to push forward software."
He says that even if he garners 3 per cent of the search engine market, it would be a sustainable model.
Page was speedy deleted on 07:53, 23 February 2007 (UTC) by Yanksox ... with a deletion summary: "privacy concerns, more trouble than it is actually worth. Are you people even human?"
I will not attempt to summarize the circus which has ensued. Awe-inspiring for Wikipedia-watchers. And more importantly, in certain ways, instructive.
The Boss of Bosses (comment: "Yes Virginia, there is an 800 pound Gorilla and sometimes we need him.") spoke, handed out preliminary sentences (stripping of power) and sent everyone involved to "Wikipedia Court":
Daniel Brandt deletion wheel war
I am referring this case directly to the ArbCom to look at possible remedies for all parties involved up to and including desysopping, blocking, etc. I have absolutely no opinion on the actual content question (should we have an article about him? I don't care) but this log is a disgrace.
Different people played different roles. I do not have time to sort it all out today, so I am referring most of it to the ArbCom. I have instantly desysopped Yanksox, though, because he's basically begging for it. I have temporarily desysopped Geni and Freakofnurture pending the ArbCom thinking it through.
Here's the action count: [...]
I know how these things go. Some of the people involved were trying to calm things down. Others were merely trying to cause more disruption and fighting by engaging in inflammatory actions designed to outrage the other side. It is hard to sort it all out. This is why wheel warring is so bad.
At one level, I know it's futile, but I keep banging this drum:
There is somebody IN CHARGE of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is not innovative in social structure _per se_. It's merely a poorly-run bureaucracy without much accountability. Yes, I know, there's money to be made and conference attention to be had in blowing smoke about this, in hyping the New Era of revolutionary self-emergent citizen-lunchmeat phenomena.
Just look at the phrasing above: "I do not have time to sort it all out today ...". It's the standard plaint of the busy harried superior unhappy with conflict among subordinates, all of whom of course think what they are doing is the right exercise of their authority: I don't have time for this now, all of you involved are going to internal judicial system for it.
And it should be noted Yanksox was a stand-up guy, and made to the "court" the honorable statement of let-everyone-else-go-I'll-take-the-heat. I assume the eventual verdict will be merciful.
I keep having to restrain myself from adding to the whole circus something along the lines of:
My god folks, when does the madness stop? The only reasons you're keeping the Daniel Brandt article now are either: 1) revenge or 2) ideological self-protection. Neither reason is good at a human level.
And deeper, this is why I don't like Wikipedia. If there's no mechanism other than God-King divine fiat to override the segment of any population that likes to hurt people, that's an extremely bad statement about the organization. And if the organization has to keep hurting people because doing otherwise would undermine its fundamental driving force, that's absolutely horrible.
[Disclaimer: I don't agree with everything Daniel Brandt says or does, but I am very sympathetic to his concerns, and think they illuminate some profound problems. I've also had my own Wikipedia biography attacks. Pokemon characters are one thing, but real people are another matter.]
Another example to demonstrate how a Wikipedia biography can be an "attractive nuisance":
Golfer Fuzzy Zoeller sues law firm for Wikipedia posting: "Pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller is teed off over what he calls defamatory statements about him on Wikipedia." (note he's not suing Wikipedia, but the company which owns the Internet address of the attacker).
Apparently his Wikipedia biography was used as a platform to libel him. And contrary to Wikipedia's mythology, the libel persisted for quite some time. Long enough to be picked up by echoes and scraper sites (it's currently verifiable this is true).
The statements Zoeller finds defamatory no longer appear in his current Wikipedia biography, ... The statements apparently were first posted Aug. 28 ... but were later removed. They were reposted twice, most recently on Dec. 20. ... The statements were removed on Jan. 2.
Wikipedia-boosters often claim a very small average time until vandalism is removed. But that's a misleading number. With partisan edit-wars going on all over it, one can rack up huge numbers of trash-talk and reversions. But it's a bit like saying a murderer has been peaceful 99.99999% of the time. The comparison is meaninglessly inflated.
Wikipedia is far more of an innovation in marketing than an innovation in knowledge
Consistent with the direction given by the ICANN Board as described in the Preliminary Report of the 12 February 2007 Special Meeting of the Board, ICANN today posted for public comment a revised Appendix S [PDF, 108K] of the proposed registry agreement with ICM (sponsoring organisation for the proposed .XXX registry).
Deadline seems to be March 9 2007 (the website says Feb 9 2007, I think that's a typo).
Roberto Gaetano said that he believed that there was significant opposition from the adult entertainment industry as they come to understand the repercussions and operation of this domain. He thought a substantial number in that community had changed their mind over the last six months. He said when the Board has evidence of substantial opposition that must be taken into account. He noted for .TRAVEL the Board had only one statement of opposition. In this case there had been hundreds.
Rita Rodin echoed what she saw as both Vint and Roberto's views. She believed that the reason ICANN had public comment periods was to take into account the views expressed during them. If the Board does not pay attention to those views, she said, this would support the oft-mentioned argument that the Board does pay attention to the community.
There you have it - the more they hear against it, especially from the intended monopoly rent-payers, I mean sponsored community, the harder it is to put the monopoly rent machine in place.
A writer at Language Log, a group linguistics site, just wrote a post motivated by the "Jew" search. This is the controversy well-known in search circles where the anti-Semitic site "Jew Watch" used to come up as the first result in a Google search for the word "Jew"
The post's an interesting window into what someone thinks when seeing the disclaimer Google displays for that search, yet not knowing at first the history of the controversy. He ask the obvious question about why Google displays a disclaimer for that term, but not for, say, hash slurs and racial epithets ("Meanwhile, other words that have uses as offensive epithets, or are used ONLY as offensive epithets, get no warning from Google.")
The answer to that is the disclaimer was prompted by bad publicity in the specific case, not linguistic offensiveness.
There's one small error in the post - the statement "And Google HAS meddled with the search results to some extent; the site's self-description" is noticing that the results display an Open Directory description rather than the site's own description. But it's not a change which was done to tone down the results for that site.
They said it, I didn't: "Getting Rich off Those Who Work for Free"
"That's because one of the most interesting questions in business has become how much work people will do for free."
In a way, it's very amusing, as if the writer is pitching the audience, don't think this article is about some granola crunchy flower-child dreaming about living in harmony with one another - it's really about the red-blooded capitalism of how big business can exploit all those flower-children dreamers just waiting to be fleeced with the right sales-pitch.
As usual, substantial critiques are to be found in some way off the beaten path forum marginalized comments:
Having arrived at your article, "Getting Rich Off Those Who Work for Free", from an Open Source portal, I regret (a little) to inform you the Free/Open Source software (FOSS) types are spurning your association of FOSS with anarchy. And I must say that it is a very poor comparison. Not only are the majority of FOSS developers not working for free, there is a strong hierarchical structure in most projects -- meritocritous to be sure, but strong nevertheless.
Bonus link: Dave Rogers:
The problem with democracy is not an inherently technological one. We have all the technology we need right now. What we don't have is the self-awareness necessary to govern ourselves in a manner consistent with our stated values and ideals.
Via Eric Goldman, the "Google v. Copiepresse, No. 06/10.928/C" Google News case decision is available, though it's in French. Perhaps someone can translate it, for the joy and happiness and civic virtue thereof. Anyway, he has some interesting commentary:
1) As I've said before, I think Google treads a lot closer to copyright's boundaries than it publicly admits. Naturally, in public, it takes the advocacy position that its offerings are clearly within copyright law, but this is hard to distinguish from cheap rhetoric. Instead, I think it's fair to say that Google pushes the edge with a lot of its services. Therefore, it should not be surprising that, given enough data points, some judges will conclude that Google has gone too far.
In addition, there an English excerpt of the case's earlier, September, decision in a post back then, at SEO by the SEA.
I should also have mentioned earlier some actual reporting by Danny Sullivan at SearchEngineLand
I have a column in The Guardian about the issue of companies basically dealing in blog PageRank-selling and link-buying (the most well-known being PayPerPost, but I don't single it out, it's just one of many).
Key point: A-listers are being disintermediated in terms of being gatekeepers for advertisers, the agency has re-intermediation, and if a page gets to the top search result from purchasing attention, almost nobody who sees that top search ranking will even know about the blogger ethics debate.
And it's not about "conversation".
The Copiepresse lawsuit involves "Google loses copyright case launched by Belgian newspapers". All Google, copyright, and media bloggers are required to write about this. It is expected that you denounce the sheer effrontery of any court which should rule against the Holy Google (despite being it somewhat less holy nowadays), even if you know nothing about complicated issues of foreign copyright law, except what you read in a hurried newspaper summary written by a reporter. Bonus points will be awarded for dragging in certain hobbyhorses about US telecommunications fights.
Your post will be be graded on how appealing it is to US geek mindset, as well as of course speed in opinion generation. Actual research will be penalized - it takes too long, and virtually nobody wants to read it any way.
I am not making up this headline: Tonight at 11, news by neighbors - Santa Rosa TV station fires news staff, to ask local folks to provide programming
"I have my own silly little term," Spendlove said. "Local content harvesting."
A true moment not to be in the process of hydration, for fear of ruining a keyboard.
Value-add via an uncommon echo:
The hype surrounding Web 2.0's ability to democratise content production obscures its centralisation of ownership and the means of sharing. Dmytri Kleiner & Brian Wyrick expose Web 2.0 as a venture capitalist's paradise where investors pocket the value produced by unpaid users, ride on the technical innovations of the free software movement and kill off the decentralising potential of peer-to-peer production
Not the least because of this paragraph in the article:
Graham's characterisation of the "Amateur"’ reminds one of "If I Ran The Circus" by Dr. Seuss, where young Morris McGurk says of the staff of his imaginary Circus McGurkus:
My workers love work. They say,
"Work us! Please work us!
We'll work and we'll work up so many surprises
You'd never see half if you had forty eyeses!"
[Also remember Nick Carr: "Web 2.0 provides an incredibly efficient mechanism to harvest the economic value of the free labor provided by the very, very many and concentrate it into the hands of the very, very few."]
I'd say something about the people who are cheerleading and enabling this effect (links omitted out of self-preservation), but they have far more power than I do :-(.
Regarding the Wikipedia fundraising scare, actual numbers below.
It's not going to do any good, but I already wrote most of the debunking of the following anyway, so I might as well make a quick blog post of it.
The following "citizen journalism" has set off the predictable rounds of ECHO ECHO ECHO! DID YOU HEAR? DID YOU HEAR? LINK, LINK, LINK ...
At this point, Wikipedia has the financial resources to run its servers for about 3 to 4 months. If we do not find additional funding, it is not impossible that Wikipedia might disappear". The warning by Florence Devouard, chairwoman of the Wikimedia Foundation was certainly dire, and Lift07 was as good a venue to make an appeal.
"To keep it up this year they will need at least 5 million USD - a recent fundraising drive raised 1 million, with an average donation of 20 USD. Wikipedia has currently enough cash to pay the bills for three months."
God forbid the supposed last best hope of the New Era, bogosphere, should in the main stop echoing for a moment, and do some actual fact-gathering. Assuming the quote is accurate, those figures sound like at best, she's talking about something else, given the numbers reported here:
"The audit also found that the Foundation raised nearly $1.3 million through contributions in 2006, an increase from the $300,000 raised in 2005 and the $70,000 raised in 2004. Despite the increasing income, expenses also jumped markedly: internet hosting costs rose from $40,000 in 2005 to nearly $200,000 in 2006, and operating costs increased by almost three times from 2005 to 2006. Depreciation of computer software and equipment cost the Foundation nearly $150,000 in 2006. The auditors also noted that this equipment is currently being depreciated based on a 5-year useful life, and recommended that this be changed to a more standard 3-year period. Since expenses overall were less than the income, the Foundation increased its total assets each fiscal year, going from about $300,000 in 2005 to $1,000,000 in 2006."
But, as the saying goes, the person who has to explain mathematics, loses.
I sent the Wikimedia foundation a press inquiry about the above. But it's the weekend, and unlike the rest of us, I assume they have lives.
[Update: For all the details, see the financial statement, particularly page 5]
[Update 2/11 - Clarification are being done:
Florence made it very clear that Wikipedia would NOT shut down in the next 3 months.
Devouard did not say that Wikipedia is going to shut down, nor used the word "disappear" during her speech.
The $5 million seems to have been about expansion plans, see http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/What_we_need_the_money_for
Since Google-killers are in the news today, for something original, let me note that despite the hype, the search project based on a Wikipedia model of user data-mining (whatever the thing is being called these days, I think the preceding phrase is clearer), has yet to even have a development machine installed. The project's mailing list has had lots of discussion about possible approaches, but no action.
No firm decisions have been made. We have the test servers scheduled for install on Friday, and then I want to turn people loose on them to start playing around and testing. We need to start talking about how that should happen and who wants to be directly involved.
I had the thought that finding good developers to work for free is different from finding wannabe literary types to work for free as copyeditors. But on reflection, I realized it won't be a problem here. There's plenty of programmers who would pay for a shot at being the guy who killed the fastest gun in the West, err, Google.
Like this: RSS
A year ago the RSS Advisory Board moved to its own domain, losing all Google juice associated with its old site. Because the search term RSS is enormously popular, we've found it difficult to attract search traffic and build a decent Google pagerank. It took nearly a year to crack the top 100 for that term on Google; we're currently up to the 80s.
I'm actually dubious they can get to the top ten in Google. Especially given that the old site has the Harvard name behind it (which works for search engines too, via "trust" algorithms ...). Just one interesting little example about how social power gets replicated in search power.
Interestingly, Yahoo gets this "right" in terms of a search on [RSS] giving rssboard.org's specification page the #3 spot. I suspect that's due to their similarity algorithm picking rssboard.org as the site to display rather than Harvard (which has the #3 spot on Google).
Note the implications here: It's a lot harder to establish an a newer project if Google keeps sending people to the old one.
For example, in terms of opposition based on trademark concerns: MarkMonitor's concerns regarding the intellectual property impacts associated with the .XXX Application and Agreement
In order to address the second issue, we would like ICANN and the ICM registry to recognize that brand holders as well as many other individuals and organizations view the launch of .xxx as an unfair means of extracting fees for defensive registrations and STOP proceedings. ... [snip]
As we represent a large number of brand holders, we urge ICANN and ICM to consult with intellectual property community before finalizing the .xxx agreement to ensure that appropriate brand related protections are adopted to minimize the potential damage to major brands throughout the world.
Interesting nuanced objection from: Government of Canada comments on the proposed ICM Registry Agreement
ICANN was not conceived to be the global Internet content regulator. It has had some difficulty establishing legitimacy and full acceptance in carrying out its primary function related to managing the domain name system. ICANN's becoming engaged in content regulation through its contracts with TLDs risks undermining its legitimacy and purpose at a time when these need to be reinforced and strengthened.
There's a few professional pro-.XXX submissions in the pile, but I'm not going to comment specifically on them here since I don't want to be unfair to their arguments (I think the arguments put forth are generally ludicrous and monetarily self-interested, but a detailed rebuttal would take substantial time to write).
PayPerPost, a company which pays bloggers for posts, is an A-list topic of complaint again. I've talked about "Commodification Of Social Relationships" [Old joke: Sex for a million? Yes. Sex for ten bucks? No. We're just haggling over price.], and PageRank/Link-Buying Doesn't Care About Blogger Ethics. Lots of go-around again now, but I finally was inspired by the blatant class warfare:
In the clip below, watch the blog marketing gurus hand over $1,000 in cash to ... a Chicago mother-of-four who works as a postie to make ends meet -- after she allows them to scrawl, "I <heart> HP", on her forehead. Classy.
Next week it'll be announced that I'm keynoting at a conference planned and sponsored by PayPerPost. This is my first speech where I'm not only having my travel and expenses paid, but they are covering my salary too. ... Why do it then? Cause I'm a capitalist and because I think that blog advertising is something that we should talk about.
Rule number one about guys who run around to speak at conference after conference: It's expensive and they're not doing it as a philanthropic act. ...
If the real issue is around what PPP is doing to search - which serves ads inside of the more tame advertising model Jeff makes money in - then he should say so.
If the Pay Per Post marketers are, in the words of one blog-evangelist, the "sidewalk hookers of the blogosphere", then the conference-club set are its "executive escorts" (note both sidewalk hookers and executive escorts are capitalists).
But note the language: not "classy", "sidewalk hookers", vs "I'm a capitalist". It's basically, again, they are blue-collar, we are white-collar. I think "I'm a capitalist" in this context really means: "Despite my relatively well-off status, economically I still need to convert social relationships into a commercial context" (which should be acceptable) - i.e. doing it ultimately for commercial purposes, no matter how much one may seem to to be in it for a purely social relationship. Which is of course breaking the marketing of human connections.
Ultimately, all of this is exposing the rift between the propaganda of blog-evangelism and its reality. There's a tiny, tiny elite of A-listers who do a sale-pitch of populism. YOU-YES-YOU can have the power, the status, the influences, of the "priests", the "gatekeepers", the "legacy media", who DON'T-GET-IT (and *you* do!) ... if you follow the gurus into the New Era. Their constant stock-in-trade is selling dreams to the little people, and then monetizing that delusion via services, data-mining, or corporate/Big-Media consulting gigs (one dispute, too easy dismissed as "soap opera", was in fact very revealing, since it was really about trying to sell the audience to large media companies).
But: The A-listers don't *deliver* (to the suckers). A talk-radioish schtick about a revolutionary fantasy can't compare to some cold hard cash on the barrelhead. A company actually *paying* a few bucks for a blog post is going to beat some empty Power To The People pitch all hollow - at least to those who are focused on income instead of ideology.
So A-listers are being undermined both in terms of being gatekeepers of influence, and their franchise. Their pose as populists is undercut by, ironically, "democratization" of payola, which is resulting in more spreading it around (while simultaneously centralizing in the company-as-aggregator).
Sadly, given the ability of the A-listers to direct attention, those of us with any interest in associated topics are going to be subjected to their ox-being-gored screams of outrage for a long, long, time. I just hope such Z-list shouting-to-the-wind and futile gestures as this post, do at least a little good :-(.
[Update: The keynoter above has announced he'll now not accept the honorarium.]
There's a "Back Off National Pork Board" controversy, where the National Pork Board is using a trademark claim to threaten a lawsuit against a breastfeeding activist for a T-shirt with the slogan "The Other White Milk."
But this post isn't about that.
Rather, in passing, in the SearchEngineLand article National Pork Board Goes After Breastfeeding Search Marketer, when discussing an earlier Google-Bomb article, it's noted that the post on SearchEngineLand.com about "miserable failure" DOESN'T SHOW UP (in the top 100 items) for a Google search on the terms [miserable failure].
Now, that's interesting (Danny, you've got to scream "I'M BEING CENSORED!", and get some A-list bloggers to theorize about how Google is suppressing you so as not to let out the secrets of Google bombing. Or maybe because comments in the article on how to re-ignite Google bombs are considered dangerous. Or Homeland Security had Google remove it because it was talking about bombs. Something like that ...). It's around #46 in Yahoo for [miserable failure], so some of the difference is legitimate outranking. But still, there's a divergence.
The article is in the Google index, since it comes up as #1 for the searches [Google Kills] and [Other Google Bombs]. Even #1 for [Bush Miserable] and #2 for [Failure Search].
But it's around #450 for [Google Bombs]. #390 for ["Google Bombs"].
I conclude [Miserable Failure] is in a general class of searches (like [Google Bombs]) where Google is doing something different from e.g. [Google Kills], and perhaps weighing age/trust more strongly. No reason all searches have to go through the exact same algorithm, we know that they don't. It's a coincidence this was noticed for "miserable failure" in specific.
Learn something new every day ...