July 24, 2009

Last vestige of Wikia Search is gone, also "Wikianswers" trademarked

[Original reporting! Not an echo!]

Oh, how far the mighty imagined Google-fighter ("killer" was overhype) has fallen. The late, only slightly lamented, Wikia Search project (Wikipedia-style search) shut down months ago. The URL was redirected to another site of Wikia Inc, a question-and-answers wiki. But there was at least a paragraph on the front page indicating Wikia Search had existed. However, on June 17, even that paragraph was removed. All that remains about Wikia Search on that page now is a tiny icon, a virtual puff of smoke, into which it has vanished.

Speaking of "Wiki answers" sites, in the name dispute between Answers.com's "WikiAnswers" site and Wikia's "Wikianswers" site, Answers.com has recently gotten a trademark registration on "WIKIANSWERS". Though the argument may possibly turn out to be academic. Even many months after launch, Wikia's site is getting less than 1% of the traffic of Answers.com's site.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikia | on July 24, 2009 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2)
July 15, 2009

More On Wikipedia blackout of David Rohde kidnapping

A few days ago, the radio program "On The Media" ran a segment on the David Rohde kidnapping and Wikipeda's suppression of information: "The Silent Treatment"

Consider this statement:

JIMMY WALES: No, it's not one that we had encountered in quite this way before, but because The New York Times was very successful in having their media blackout, it was pretty easy for our volunteers to look at it and say, well, really under the rules of Wikipedia we've never considered ourselves a wide open free speech forum where people can post speculative things. We just look at it and we say, well yes, there was one report here and a couple of blogs, but really it's not being reported anywhere else, so who knows.

Now, of course, I knew that it was true because The New York Times contacted me to ask what could be done about it, but it's not my obligation to report everything I know, just as it wouldn't be for anybody.

Note the first edit to add the information about David Rohde's kidnapping sourced it to an Afghan news report.

Compare the following message on a Wikipedia discussion list:

... When we want to protect a non-reporter, we are told that since Wikipedia is just republishing information that is already out there and causing damage anyway, the person will probably have been hurt just as much without the Wikipedia article. And of course, Wikipedia is not censored, and that the five pillars of Wikipedia require the free flow of information and can never be compromised.

Certainly, someone who tried to suppress information in the same way, but was not Jimmy Wales or otherwise important on Wikipedia, even if they did it to save a life, would be accused of edit warring, told that they are abusing the rules, and taken to Arbcom and banned. Of course, in the process they would be told that their idea that they are saving a life is speculative and can't be proven. If one such person were to justify their actions by claiming that terrorists can't use the Internet well, we would reply "nice idea, but you really have no proof for that. You're just speculating. You don't know that that's true. Now stop the edit warring and the rules abuse-- we can certainly prove *that*."

Where you stand depends on where you sit.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikipedia | on July 15, 2009 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2)
July 08, 2009

My _Guardian_ column on David Rohde kidnapping, and Wikipedia suppression

"The moral quandary of involving Wikipedia in online 'censorship'"

"The suppression of news about a reporter's disappearance saw the New York Times and Wikipedia work together but raises issues about control of information"

Note this title was written by an editor. I didn't suggest a title of my own. It's not really wrong, but as a title, I'd say it doesn't quite sum up what I was trying to examine in that column. I was attempting to consider a broad moral question, and then use Wikipedia as a worked example because the issues are so visible there (due to all the public arguing which goes on it, and how much internal deliberations tend to get leaked). Not that Wikipedia has any special status - in fact, I was writing against any idea of Wikipedia exceptionalism.

As I think of it, the column is trying to look at two topics:

1) Why did this hiding of information succeed overall, and what are the implications? (remember, we're constantly told it can't happen - but obviously, gatekeepers remain)

2) Who gets to keep out information, and why?

Of course, there's only so much of this that can be covered in the space available. But that was my attempt at saying something which would be worth reading, amidst all the other punditry on this topic.

[For all columns, see the page Seth Finkelstein | guardian.co.uk.]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in press , wikipedia | on July 08, 2009 03:02 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2)