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The Longest Now

Getting Africa Wired
Wednesday September 27th 2006, 9:29 pm
Filed under: international

Ethan Zuckerman and Eric Osiakwan updated us about the situation in
Africa regarding Internet access. Very fascinating. Growth will be very
steady and larger than other global areas during the next few years.
Wireless use in some areas is extremely important. Many people connect
to the Internet via satellite.  j
provides some notes.

Getting Africa Wired …

How to FakiT
Friday September 22nd 2006, 2:26 am
Filed under: %a la mod

Haldane was definitely the bomb.  Where is that extended family now? 
Update: some days I forget the cardinal rule: Ask Wikipedia First.  Of course Haldane’s family is a topic of note, garnering its own main-namespace article and cross-namespace redirect (something generally forbidden; but this is clearly a special case).

This essay is similar to how to LearniT, but wit 60% less PowerPoint.  And how to GaMiT… now that one’s on the desk across the way .

How to FakiT …

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Posted a few long rants on wikipedia lists today
Friday September 22nd 2006, 2:25 am
Filed under: international

I’ll add direct links here later.  Comment on the mailing listgs for now, if you’re interested. 

Revolt in Thailand : is it a coup?
Tuesday September 19th 2006, 2:01 pm
Filed under: international

There’s a revolt underway in Bangkok.,00050001.htm

BBC’s world have your say has live audio:

TV screenshots:

Steady updates:



(links via global voices)

Revolt in Thailand : is it a coup? …

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How to criticize Wikipedia: Lesson 1, Constructive criticism
Wednesday September 13th 2006, 12:01 am
Filed under: poetic justice

Welcome back to “How to criticize Wikipedia”, a series for bloggers and others hoping to change Wikipedia for the better.  After a brief delay, reporting live from Abuja, here is the first lesson, on constructive criticism.

Criticizing Wikipedia is a serious undertaking, and not one to be picked up lightly. You may have the world’s most incisive criticism of Wikipedia; but if you can’t express yourself in a way that will make any community member listen, being incisive won’t be enough.   Be sure that you

  • read up on past discussions along the same lines,
  • respect and take advantage of the way the Wikipedia community welcomes and responds directly to criticism,
  • place with care any criticisms, first identifying the 2 or 3 best places for them
  • assume good faith of others when wording criticisms.

Reading up: for one thing, most criticisms about Wikipedia and how it has treated your favorite writer, contributor, subject, biography, or ideology have already been stated somewhere, with cross-references and ensuing discussion and refinement, somewhere on Wikipedia itself.  For another, many controversial aspects of Wikipedia have also been the topic of policy debates, even proposed and adopted policy, and community WikiProjects.  Try searching WP for topics related to your criticism before typing out a new manifesto.

Respect:  Most organizations and most websites provide only for closed-circuit feedback and complaints.  Respect the open channels available to you (as well as the zealots and lunatics) for criticisms and discussions, avoid abusing them,  and recognize that those responding to you also spend their time responding to the aforementioned zealots and lunatics, and mistake the seriousness of your criticisms if they are in a hurry.  (They may also have had the same discussion a dozen times before.)  If someone snaps at you, don’t instantly snap back; it takes at least two for a critical debate to degenerate into a flamefest.

Place with care: The fact that you can post your criticism to the personal talk pages of every active community member, and to every discussion portal, does not mean you should do so.  Find one place to make your point clearly and solicit discussion, and no more than two other places where it or related topics are already being discussed, from which to link to your point.  When in doubt, ask on the Village Pump where to put such criticism; the community members likely to respond will know where all the policy and discussion pages are, even if you don’t.

Assume good faith: The contributors to the site are not part of a great conspiracy; do not share any uniform political, religious, or editorial goals; do not hate you; and are not ignoring what you have to say.  They do not all speak with one voice.  A couple of editors, even if they are 2 of the 1000 administrators on en:wp, do not represent the “view” of the entire project, nor any significant subset of it.  Individual editors may be immature, in a bad mood, uninterested in dealing with criticisms of the site.  The body of editors as a whole responds well to gracefully-put criticism, and even encourages and highlights it:

How to criticize Wikipedia: Lesson 1, Constructive criticism …

Transparency and accountability
Wednesday September 06th 2006, 3:17 am
Filed under: chain-gang

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) is one graft-happy congressman.  Of course as any Tammany lad could tell you, graft is only natural…   Stevens is the only actively blocking a recent bill supporting strong transparency of the use of government funds — as I understand it, the bill mandates that any project or organization that receives funds would have an entry on a website that specified the purpose and dates of the funds.

Stevens placed an anonymous hold on the bill ‘for [indefinite] consideration‘, in accordance with Senate procedures, but a call to other Senators to deny they had been responsible for the block quickly winnowed the field of potential blockers.

The idea that not having this level of basic transparency is an option — something to debate seriously — is almost as embarrassing as the idea that some of the pork handed out around the US (including the $200M+ bridge Sen. Stevens snagged last year, and the Big Dig many times over) is allowed to continue — over active opposition by members of these bodies pointing out the waste involved.  A system built on social censure and acquiescense as much as formal rules is only as good as its second-bravest member.

As for Stevens? Well, my father liked to say of such people, “By the time a man is forty, he is responsible for his face.  This man does not have a good face.”

Transparency and accountability …

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At the Crossroads
Saturday September 02nd 2006, 10:36 pm
Filed under: international

An insightful and cutting essay by Aaron Swartz, candidate in the current Wikimedia Board elections, about the challenges facing Wikimedia.  It’s great to hear a fresh voice tackle some of these long-standing problems, from the perspective of someone who has been around for many years and paying close attention, if rarely jumping into the fray.

At the Crossroads …

Foo 2.0 : deletion debate and resolution
Friday September 01st 2006, 6:25 pm
Filed under: metrics

The result of the Great Wikipedia “Foo 2.0” debate of August 2006 : See the enterprise social software page and the social computing discussion page.  Please contribute to the quality of those articles, still in sad shape and hardly a useful reference for any audience.

As always, it amazes me that so many people — homemakers, high school students, firemen — who simply care about the development of a reference work can be as sensitive to nuance and level-headed in academic discussions as academics (who have devoted much of their life to scholarly discourse).  It makes me at once proud and disappointed by our civilization; that all manner of subtleties can be picked up without special training; and that much capability is untapped through ignorance or denial of this.

But I’m ranting again, when I should be describing how to add constructively to WP.  Until then… find a hill to fly a kite this long weekend, be kind to your neighbors and good to your family, and don’t labor too long or hard.

Foo 2.0 : deletion debate and resolution …

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