Using Wikipedia in an unknown language

There are Wikipedia sites in hundreds of languages. Are you ever interested in the contents of an article in a language you don’t know? Or want to reach somebody who works in a language you don’t know? This simple trick will make it much easier to find your way around:

(The video below is embedded from YouTube; if you prefer to view the video on Commons, here’s the link.)

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A Wikipedia portrait anchors a sports star’s place in history

LeGarrette Blount, as photographed in 2009 by Alex McDougall.

LeGarrette Blount, as a Duck, 2009 . Photo: Alex McDougall, CC BY-SA 3.0

Back in 2009, the Oregon Ducks’ star running back (college football) was suspended for most of the season, following a post-game flare-up in the nationally televised season opener. With rumors and hyperbole flying all over the Internet, I decided to work on his Wikipedia bio; it’s a good way to keep fact distinct from fantasy. It was exciting to see the bio attract nearly 19,000 hits in one day — but I didn’t start my work until the next day, when the numbers started to decline.

But this week, that same running back — LeGarrette Blount — is on his way to his first Super Bowl, now in his second stint with the New England Patriots. Just yesterday, his article had nearly 21,000 hits. I decided to revisit the article, which had gone through the “Good Article” peer review process more than five years ago, to see what remains.

The first thing I notice is that others have added the details of Blount’s career with five NFL teams, and provided detailed statistics, with numerous references. This is not surprising; sports fans can be meticulous Wikipedia editors, and love to document the exploits of their favorite teams and players. But the quality does seem higher than many sports biographies. It’s pleasing to see that every section has at least one citation, if not more; most of them appear to be to high quality sources, and are well formatted. This seems to be common with articles that have gone through a peer review process; Wikipedians hold new additions to a higher standard than on other Wikipedia articles, and take care to preserve the article’s quality.

In particular, though, I was interested in the photo I used to illustrate the article.

Continue reading

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The ethics of Wikipedia work, part 1: review

One of our core values at Wiki Strategies is dealing with Wikipedia (and the collaborative Internet in general) in a way that is responsible and ethical. Wikipedia is a project that requires neutral presentation of factual material. Conflicts of interest are inevitable; they can be managed ethically, but it takes a clear focus on transparency and respect, as well as technical knowledge of the policies and functioning of Wikipedia. We guide our clients in maintaining an ethical approach, and we are diligent and explicit in maintaining an ethical approach ourselves.

In this, the first of a short series of blog posts, I’m collecting links to highly relevant pages on Wikipedia, and my own past writing. Wikipedia and Wikimedia are vast, complex, and relatively new in the world; new ideas and situations arise frequently, often with unique ethical dimensions. Continue reading

Posted in navel gazing, Statements of Ethics, Terms of Use, wiki, Wikimedia Foundation, Wikipedian in Residence | Leave a comment

Video: how to categorize files with Cat-a-lot

A colleague, Eugene Eric Kim, has increasingly been uploading freely licensed photos to Wikimedia Commons. Excellent!

The more you get involved with Commons, the more you’ll probably want to move files into categories; and if you’re working with more than one or two files at a time, you’ll probably get tired of manually entering category information.

An excellent tool for file categorization is Cat-a-lot. So I made this short video, to demonstrate how to get started with it. (The video below is embedded from YouTube; if you prefer to view the video on Commons, here’s the link.)

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Original inspiration: Dick Forsyth, 1929-2014

Dick Forsyth in his early 80s.

Dick Forsyth in his early 80s. photo gallery
Photo (c) Brandy Hug, 2012

If you’re lucky, you have a caring and inspiring father in your life. I was double lucky. I had two.

On November 26, Dick Forsyth (“Dad” to me) died after a couple hard years of one health problem after another. His last day was peaceful, and I was able to spend it with him, along with my mother, stepsister, and — by phone — stepbrother and many others. We were, I think, able to ease his passing; to help him keep his mind on the love and beauty he built around himself for 85 years, and not so much on the pain of a failing body, or the fear of the unknown.

Dad married Mom when I was three. He legally adopted me, and then made all the right moves that enabled me to enjoy a deep connection with my birth father, Jon Boudreau (“Jonni” to me; we first met when I was seven; he died over a decade ago).

What I’d like to talk about here, though, is his influence on my work, which — as I am now realizing more fully — had a deep and lasting impact. He shaped how I approach technology, collaboration, knowledge, and empathy. In the past, I’ve been struck by our differences. But now, the common threads stand out more clearly. Continue reading

Posted in navel gazing | 5 Comments

October 14th–Wikipedia discussion in Brookline, Mass.

Boston area Wikipedia meetup hosted by Wiki Strategies, EchoDitto, and TheftyJack in 2013. Photo by Pete Forsyth, CC BY license.

Boston area Wikipedia meetup hosted by Wiki Strategies, EchoDitto, and TheftyJack in 2013. Photo by Pete Forsyth, CC BY license.

Are you in the Boston area? Interested in Wikipedia, knowledge, the Internet? How about tea, or a cocktail?

Please join us this evening (Tuesday, October 14) at 7pm at the Golden Temple, Washington Square, Brookline. Wiki Strategies founder Pete Forsyth and his colleagues look forward to chatting with you about Wikipedia and its past, present, and future. No host bar.

See here for further details and to RSVP.

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When the PR industry does PR for itself

Summary of the four principles committed to by top PR industries in June 2014

Summary of the four principles committed to by top PR industries in June 2014

This week, several major Public Relations firms issued an announcement about their intentions toward Wikipedia. The headlines capture the spirit of the announcement nicely:

There’s just one problem: all these headlines got the facts of the announcement dead wrong. (So did about half of the two-dozen-plus articles I’ve seen on this.) Continue reading

Posted in Statements of Ethics, Terms of Use, wiki, Wikimedia Foundation | 15 Comments

Wikidata: Why it matters, how to get started

Wikidata is a new member of the Wikimedia family, and helps many language editions of Wikipedia share structured information.

Wikidata is a new member of the Wikimedia family, and helps many language editions of Wikipedia share structured information.

Have you heard of Wikidata? It’s a (fairly) new Wikimedia project, designed to support Wikipedia in all language editions, Wikimedia Commons, and the rest of the Wikimedia family of wikis. It collects information — like the information in Wikipedia articles, for instance — in a structured way, that makes it easy to share that information across languages and across projects. And best of all, it’s based on a (heavily customized) wiki — so if you’ve edited Wikipedia before, it should be pretty easy to get started on Wikidata!

My colleague Tom Morris, a London-based Wikipedian, announced a nice way to get to know Wikidata the other day, in an email to the Wikipedia gender gap email list. Continue reading

Posted in Beginner how-to, gender, systemic bias, wiki, Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons | 5 Comments

Wikimedia Commons: An evolving community; far from “ethically broken”

This week, an email list discussion I took part in ballooned to 70 messages. It started with concerns about an image of a pile of corpses, featured on the front page of Wikimedia Commons; but it turned into an argument about whether (as some have phrased it in recent years) the leadership in the Commons community is “ethically broken.” My colleague Kevin Gorman stated:

“…the fact Commons’ has a history of not wanting to comply with WMF board resolutions…”

That assertion is false, and statements like it — especially from people in leadership positions — are damaging to the collaborative spirit which drives the Wikimedia movement. Leaders in our movement have even falsely accused specific elected administrators of aiming to get as much pornography or objectionable content as possible onto Commons; seemingly, with no awareness that those specific administrators have deleted hundreds or thousands of objectionable images from Commons, or that one image (considered objectionable by some) might be more in line with Commons’ educational mission, or with its responsibilities toward various parties, than another.

There are, to be sure, sometimes problems with decisions made at Commons; when a web site hosts more than 16 million freely sharable files, there are bound to be a few disagreements. But those disagreements do not result from any lack of integrity on the part of the community that curates the collection. To accuse these dedicated volunteers of being “ethically broken” is wrong. It’s damaging to the collaborative spirit that has allowed us to amass this collection of free media.

There are many reasons why disagreements arise: Continue reading

Posted in Free licenses, government, wiki, Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Foundation | 7 Comments

Damian Lillard’s amazing shot: will we see it on Wikipedia?

Portland's Damian Lillard. Photo by Mikalan Moiso, licensed CC BY-SA.

Portland’s Damian Lillard. Photo by Mikalan Moiso, licensed CC BY-SA.

Are you a basketball fan? If so, you’ve probably seen the incredible shot Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers just hit, with under one second of playing time remaining, to win the first seven-game series of the NBA 2014 playoffs. But if not, you may find this interesting anyway — I’d like to talk about an important standard Wikipedia applies to including historic video footage. (Here’s a little background if you’re just catching up.)

The NBA, of course, provides amazing and historic footage of this feat (the first video clip below — I’ll come back to the other two in a moment.) But you will never see that footage on Wikipedia articles like 2014 NBA Playoffs, Damian Lillard2013-14 Portland Trail Blazers season, or History of the Portland Trail Blazers.

This may seem strange — after all, this video clip is all over Facebook, Twitter, sports blogs, TV coverage, etc. So why wouldn’t Wikipedia — which aims to document historic events — publish it? Continue reading

Posted in Beginner how-to, Free licenses, Oregon, sports, wiki, Wikimedia Commons | 2 Comments