Wikimedia’s proposed Terms of Use update

We could have cages, so diners are protected from each other. Who knows what they might do, sitting there with knives? That isn’t a good way to design a restaurant, to live our lives in society. --Jimmy Wales, 2005 Image (c) Nicholas Boudreau, used with permission.

“We could have cages, to protect diners from each other. What might they do with their knives? No- that isn’t a good way to design a restaurant, or to live our lives in society.
paraphrase of Jimmy Wales, 2005
Image (c) Nicholas Boudreau, used with permission.

In February, I argued in a Wikipedia Signpost op-ed that a proposed change to Wikimedia’s Terms of Use (TOU) was less than ideal. The proposal would require of all editors of Wikipedia, and all other Wikimedia projects, that they disclose any paid conflict of interest in at least one of three ways. This is, of course, a practice that Wiki Strategies has always supported (at least, respecting Wikipedia); but the specific amendment is problematic in several ways.

The Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees will be considering it this week. The amendment’s passage may be inevitable, given the strong community support (837-286). I still think it would be a mistake; Continue reading

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Five things a Wikipedian in Residence can do

Are you a Wikipedian? Do you want to help a museum, a library, a university, or other organization explore ways to engage with Wikipedia? Great – you should offer your expertise as a Wikipedian in Residence!

If you find yourself in such a role, you will have opportunities to help your host organization contribute to the sharing of knowledge in new and exciting ways; and to help Wikipedia readers and editors around the world benefit directly from the expertise and institutional knowledge your host possesses. Ideally, your role is that of a connector and a facilitator; you should aim to empower those around you (both the staff of your host organization, and Wikipedia volunteers who share the organization’s interests).

So what can you do to get off to a good start? Below are a few ideas, drawn from past Wikipedian in Residence programs. (It may also be helpful to review the assessment of a program that many felt was not planned effectively: Assessment of Belfer Center Wikipedian in Residence program)

1. Chat it up on Wikipedia!

A great Wikipedian in Residence convenes discussion among Wikipedians and the host organization's people, both online and in person. ©Lettera 27, licensed CC BY-SA 3.0.

A great Wikipedian in Residence will convene discussion among Wikipedians and the host organization’s people, both online and in person. ©Lettera 27, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Wikipedia’s talk pages can be drama machines – or they can be ghostly silent. But when all is going well, they can be incredible forums for processing complex information, and determining the best way to clearly and neutrally guide a reader’s learning process.

What makes discussions on Wikipedia work well? Continue reading

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Is Wikipedia better than other encyclopedias?

I recently encountered the question: “Has Wikipedia surpassed the quality of traditional encyclopedias?” Here’s my answer:

Absolutely, yes. Wikipedia has established ways of thinking about encyclopedic “quality” that never existed before. Oh, a few ideas off the top of my head — before Wikipedia, nobody would have ever thought it might be possible to find, in a single general interest encyclopedia: Continue reading

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Where is the real report on the Belfer Center’s Wikipedia program?

For those seeking more context for this blog post, I recommend this summary by William Beutler.

The "Lessons Learned" identified in the Wikimedia Foundation's report

The “Lessons Learned” identified in the Wikimedia Foundation’s report

Last week, Sue Gardner of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) reported on WMF’s role in placing a paid Wikipedia writer (“Wikipedian in Residence” or “WIR”) at Harvard’s Belfer Center, paid for by the Stanton Foundation. Gardner’s report acknowledges that WMF was negligent; but based on my substantial and direct contact with the program – before, during, and after its execution, as described here – I consider that conclusion insufficient. The WMF knew that its actions were mistakes before it made them – and then it made them anyway. Continue reading

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Wikipedia: a vital outpost of “open” on the web

This week I published an op-ed piece:

Let me tell you a story about Ron. Well, his name isn’t Ron. But everything else in this story is true.

Ron and I arrived at a social function. Ron assigned himself to the snack table. A few bites in, a crumb of chip buckled under the guacamole it supported, tumbled out of his mouth, and—after ricocheting off his teeth and through his formidable beard—landed squarely back in the middle of the bowl of guacamole. Ron didn’t glance around to see who noticed—what would be the point? He had a job to do. He reached for another chip.

The full piece is on Zocalo Public Square; an edited version ran on USA Today’s Opinion page, and in several other Gannett papers. Continue reading

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Wikipedia in Higher Education symposium

Today I had the honor of presenting to faculty at the University of Sydney, as part of Dr. Robert Cummings’ “Wikipedia in Higher Education” symposium. Here are my notes.

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There are better ways of combating unethical paid editing

My op-ed piece on the proposal to modify the Wikimedia Terms of Use was published in the Wikipedia Signpost:

An effort is underway for Wikimedia to codify a principle that has been a cornerstone of my Wikipedia training and consulting practice, Wiki Strategies, since our launch in 2009: essentially, that certain conflicts of interest must be publicly disclosed.

Focused community consideration of this principle is long overdue, and I applaud this effort. Undisclosed conflicts of interest pose a significant threat to Wikipedia. Action is needed. Why? Because of things like this: Continue reading

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Free Wikipedia course: registration open!

Pete Forsyth presenting Wikipedia. Photo by Visitor7, licensed CC BY-SA.

Pete Forsyth presenting Wikipedia. Photo by Visitor7, licensed CC BY-SA.

As announced by my colleague Sara Frank Bristow on the Creative Commons blog, registration is now open for the free, online course “Writing Wikipedia Articles: The basics and beyond.” This is the fourth time we’re offering the course, which runs for six weeks and focuses on open educational resources and related concepts.

Continue reading

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Wikipedia: tying together formal & informal education

Earlier this month I attended the launch event for Open Educational Resources university, a consortium that is tying together the best of formal and informal education. I’m really excited about what this means for the future of higher ed, and I think that Wikipedia can be used as a teaching tool in ways that unlock great opportunities. I explain why in this 5 minute video from the event:

To add to what I said in the video, which focuses on the open, online Wikipedia class I will be teaching at the University of Mississippi in the spring, I remain very optimistic about the benefits of using Wikipedia as a teaching tool. Having students use Wikipedia can promote a variety of worthwhile learning outcomes, including:

  • Building competence in collaborating in an online peer production community, an increasingly valuable skill in many fields;
  • Developing literacy in online media; learning to evaluate the quality and appropriate use of a given online resource; Continue reading
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Grant submission

Wiki Strategies just submitted the following grant application. Please vote for us here! (Fair warning: you will have to connect a Facebook account in order to vote.) In addition, I hope this concise overview of the current status of Wiki Strategies and our future plans will be of interest to our readers!

Tell us about your business. What inspired you to start your business? How is your business successful? What makes it unique?

Wiki Strategies advises corporations, non-profits, and universities in effective and ethical engagement with Wikipedia, the only top 5 web site that invites anyone in the world to directly write and edit its articles. Pete Forsyth, a 7 year veteran Wikipedia contributor with 20 years’ experience in traditional media, offers expert advice on the site’s rules, social norms, and technical challenges. Clients, including many highly respected organizations, build capacity in new media engagement.

How is your business involved with the community you serve?

Wiki Strategies is deeply rooted in the global community of 100,000+ Wikipedia volunteers. We are inspired by the community’s accomplishments, and are honored Continue reading

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