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The Longest Now

More Sex Appeal
Wednesday August 31st 2005, 9:18 pm
Filed under: indescribable

What’s better than Evian-filled waterbras
More excruciatingly wonderful than asbestos soles at a fire-walking
retreat?  More rotationally inexplicable than a Klein bottle?  More linked with metastatic melanoma than the tomacco plant?  Wikiwax, Mark III.

That is all.

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Blog Day!
Wednesday August 31st 2005, 8:50 pm
Filed under: international

Today is one of 365 special days each year dedicated to broadening your view of the world.
This happens to be a day when everyone jumps on the bandwagon, and I’ve
said recently I would join all y’all for the hay-ride.  So here’s a
special post to stay in the blog day spirit of things.

There are many great blogs around the world to point you; to narrow
down the field, I’ve tried to limit myself to blogs that are inherently
multilingual, or devoted to wikis.  (Here I avoid the ones that show up in the excellent African
aggregator in the sidebar; I’ll do a separate post on developing world blogs, and plug the Bridge Blog Index, et. al.).

  • Luistxo (in Basque, et al) — discussions of technology and openness from Basque country
  • Hoder
    (in Persian & English) — all sorts of mad thoughts on society,
    technology, law or culture; especially regarding Iran.  [NB: not
    very comment-friendly  sj]
  • Meta
    (in Chinese & English) — possibly the best blog title ever. 
    many interesting political, social, and technological ideas see first
    light here
  • Jeż Węgierski (Polish mainly) — the reason I’m learning Polish. 
  • Frisco love (In all the world’s tongues.  Dubbed in English.)  Hmm, how did that get in there?
  • Work in progress (German mainly) — more about Brockhaus and encyclopedias than even I can shake a stick at
  • Wikimetrics (English mainly) — a perfect blog title.  Delightful images, research, and prose. 

Touched by the tentacly toolchain tornado
Tuesday August 30th 2005, 6:09 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

Alright already.  I am slowly giving in to all you wild and crazy
people who love hip bands-of-the-moment, wagons, and their unholy
offspring.  Some reviews of links in the modern toolchain to
come.  I approach it from a position of expectant disappointment

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What you see is what you wiki
Tuesday August 30th 2005, 4:46 pm
Filed under: chain-gang

Jim’s Wikiwyg implementation, at one point apparently linked from,
is a brilliant experiment with client-side, Javascript-based wiki
rendering.  There’s a bit of a naming conflict at the moment in
the blogosphere, but he’s getting back into coding and writing, so
hopefully he can work it out.  I would love to see a new revision
out soon, and collaboration with the developers who were discussing new
user-friendly editing ideas at Wikimania earlier this month.

For a fine example of the tool at work, here’s an examlpe of  Wikiwyg on nested tables,
using an article comparing web browsers.  Note how the page starts
loading almost immediately (slowed down by his single server), and
continues smoothly to render down the page.

Update from Jim (Aug 31):

By the way, I’ve had a bit of correspondence about naming. We agreed to call
our projects by the full names and, and to post a
disambiguation note at the top of both our home pages as soon as my site is
properly up.

I’m quite happy with this. The guys seem to have acted in good
faith and weren’t aware of my project’s name when they started theirs.

Cheers to all involved for being good-natured about this.

What you see is what you wiki …

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Statements of unreliability, and earning trust
Friday August 26th 2005, 4:07 pm
Filed under: metrics

There are an increasing number of articles and works published whichrefer to Wikipedia as an implicitly reliable source — often ininappropriate contexts.  As its quality improves, Wikipedia
seemsto be shirking a certain quiet

to be modest; something which wasnot a problem back when none would
have mistaken it for a meticulouslyedited compilation. 

Example:  Ann Simmons, writing in the
LA Times on a matter of British peerage earlier this summer, used the
clause “according to Burke’s
and Wikipedia,”
a snippet which should immediately give one pause.  For one
thing,the two references have nothing in common.  It seems that aneditor tacked on the clause, “,
an online encyclopedia,”
in a vain effort at
clarification.  The full quote:

to Burke’s and Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, Fredericksucceeded
his father, Robert Capell, the 10th Earl, who died in June.(The late
earl was a distant cousin of the 9th Lord Essex.)

The 11th Earl is a bachelor and has no children.
With no otherapparent successor in sight, Capell is the new heir to the earldom.
Hisaristocratic genealogy is documented in the 106th edition of “Burke’sPeerage & Baronetage.”

Please understand me; I will be the first to tell you that you can
articles and collections
on Wikipedia – including many
on peerage and
– which are among the
overviews in the Englishlanguage; if only you know where to look, and how to check the latest
revisions in each
article’s history.  

the process for checking information added to Burke’s and that
foradding information to Wikipedia are vastly dissimilar. 
TheWikipedia overview article on the Earl of
instance, continues to list no references, two months after theabove
(widely syndicated) article drew new attention to the wiki
articles on Frederick andRobert Capell. 

It is
embarrassing to imagine some newscasster, writer, lawyer,politician,
student, professor, or publicistciting a random article from Wikipedia,
on peerage or anything else,without somehow verifying
thatthe article had been carefullyresearched.  So what can be done?  Short of the
full-fledgeddrive for moderated or static views of the project, that is. 

What I would like to see is an internal quality review group that
issues regular recommendations
to the rest of the world.  At first these
recommendations would look like a brief whitelist of the categories and
subsubfields thatare really
top-notch and being monitored by a healthy community ofrespected
users.  As content improves, it would add various
hard metricsfor each of
various top-level categories — spot-check accuracy;vandalism
frequency/longevity; proportion/longevity of POV and otherdisputes;
rates of article creation, editing, and deletion; &c,

The recommendations could go out to educational, librarian, andresearch bodies –including
some of you reading this.   Theywould be prominently linked
to the sitewidedisclaimer[s].  The metrics would be available to
anyone asfeedback, including those working on relevant WikiProjects.
What do
youthink? (… read the full
A tip o’ the cursor to

(Update: quintupling of this post reverted.  Now how did that happen?  Rogue content editor alert…)

Goodness and trust in strange lands
Friday August 19th 2005, 6:40 am
Filed under: metrics

Shako Mukulu is one of those people I think of every month, though we have not spoken since my last visit to his hometown of Kibwezi
over 5 years ago.  He taught me many things while I stayed with
him, off and on, for two months.  Most importantly, after “never blow your nose on anything but tissue paper (or you’ll get sick),” was his maxim not to mistrust anyone without very good reason.

I once came home after a day of packed matatu rides
with a neat rip through my pants pocket and missing a 1000 KSh note
that had been there the day before – my luxurious budget for last week
in the country.  I worried that it had been stolen;
Shako reproved me roundly, saying “don’t think such things if you don’t
know.”  I checked through all of my belongings, and found I had
turned my pockets out into a small bag without remembering it. 

Trust is a funny beast, but it is in many communities the right
default.  This is a complex topic, worthy of a few chapters of a
book, but of particular relevance to travellers in strange lands with
professional pickpockets. 
Differentiating between these pros and everyday people, and the milieus
each group prefers, is the difference between prudence and prejudice.

My mother left behind a makeup case – stolen?  perhaps.  I
left behind a stack of newspapers and a baseball cap (the Sox… you
had to ask?), and retrieved both of them once I found the right people
to ask.

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Polish encyclopedia on WP
Thursday August 18th 2005, 3:58 pm
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory

A quote:

The project inspires us. Wikipedia is more than an encyclopedia. It’s more of an attempt at collecting all human knowledge. The fact that it’s being created by amateurs doesn’t matter – if they write long enough, they become professionals. And when they are not limited by space, enthusiasts can write great articles about any topic. I’m not afraid about the future of printed encyclopedia. Cinema did not kill theatre, television did not kill cinema, the Internet didn’t kill books, so the future of printed encyclopedia is also safe.

From Bartlomiej Kaczorowski, Editor-in-chief of PWN, Poland’s greatest print encyclopedia.  They also have a free-as-in-beer online version with all the content of their smallest printed edition.   Hopefully they are right, and the long and esteemed history of print encyclopedias, with its highly refined aesthetic, will find comfortable common ground with populist efforts to actually keep up with the modern flowering of information.

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A few quick media links
Tuesday August 09th 2005, 2:59 pm
Filed under: fly-by-wire

Some Wikimania coverage in English :

Programming for the greater good
Wednesday August 03rd 2005, 6:04 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

Working on the proceedings from Wikimania now.  If you haven’t sent in your final paper or slides, your days are numbered… there will be special icons for the proceedings entries indicating their freshness.

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Ward arrives tomorrow
Tuesday August 02nd 2005, 8:29 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

Ward Cunningham (and most of the remaining attendees on travel
scholarships from under-wikified parts of the worls) will be here
tomorrow, two days before the real Wiki Mania begins.  Two
documentary producers, the principals of Globalvision, will arrive as
well.  I think the discussions of the next two days will be as
interesting as those of the rest of the conference…
Ward Cunningham (and most of the remaining attendees on travel
scholarships from under-wikified parts of the worls) will be here
tomorrow, two days before the real Wiki Mania begins.  Two
documentary producers, the principals of Globalvision, will arrive as
well.  I think the discussions of the next two days will be as
interesting as those of the rest of the conference…

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Wikimania Blog started on Meta-Wiki
Monday August 01st 2005, 10:06 pm
Filed under: %a la mod

A blog has been started on the Wikimedia Meta-wiki to cover
Wikimania.  The first posts have been made by yours truly, but
expect more to come from other conference attendees.  The content
there will have much more detail about the nuances and trivia of
conference organization and late-night jam sessions; so look there to
satisfy your Need for Mania.   Please excuse the lack of RSS
feeds for that specific page; this is one of the issues we will be
talking about during the hacking days this week.

Wikimania Blog started on Meta-Wiki …

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“Wikis need WYSIWYG editors” — Ward Cunningham
Monday August 01st 2005, 10:02 pm
Filed under: chain-gang

In a recent interview (last fall), Ward Cunningham
highlighted the most pressing unresolved problem with wikis : the lack
of a simple and familiar editing interface for most users.  Asked
what one thing he would change about Wikipedia, he said immediately, “I’d put a WYSIWYG editor in front of it.

Since then, no progress has been made towards changing the default editor for Wikipedia or for MediaWiki in general.  But discussions today with non-MediaWiki developers at the start of Wikimania’s Hacking Days
suggest that modern web-based WYSIWYG editors are becoming fairly
mature and fast, and are certainly reasonable as interface options, if
not as the default option, for wiki users.

HtmlArea, and early Wikimania excitement
Monday August 01st 2005, 8:24 pm
Filed under: metrics

Day 1 of the Wikimania was a definite success.  Everyone arrived
and found their way to the hostel (and, in Achal’s case, the hotel)
without incident; the hackers self-assembled to a midday start, and in
the process of discussing the first day’s topic, hacked out a first draft of a metadata solution.

After the day’s talks, and after what seemed like a fine dorm-style
meal, there were many good, quiet discussions and a viewing of Pi. Eugene and Sven and I talked about the active disinterest in HtmlArea
by Wiki programmers, including many of our friends.  Without my
mentioning my interview with Ward Cunningham, Eugene commented that
Ward probably wouldn’t feel strongly about it. 
When I pointed out that, in fact, Ward had twice listed “lack of WYSIWYG
  as the greatest remaining barrier to the general public
using wikis, Eugene was surprised, and commented that nobody had blogged
about it.  Which was true!  Mea maxima culpa.

So, I’m going to blog about it now; better late than never. 

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