Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Larry Sanger Lecture

Sanger's talk was titled "The Future of Free Information" and focused largely on how his new project, Digital Universe will fix the problems he feels Wikipedia and other information resources have.
"High quality of content is essential because we want an information resource to allow us to gain knowledge," said Sanger. "Quality is determined by accuracy and completeness."
Sanger said expert involvement increases a resource's faithfulness to expert opinion. He pointed out several times during the presentation that the difference between Wikipedia and Digital Universe is that experts would have editorial control over user submitted entries in Digital Universe. He said experts were needed to lead discussion between non-experts submitting information.
"Accuracy is going to increase the more expert eyeballs get at the topic," said Sanger. He added that accuracy requires neutrality and fairness with respect to the broad range of opinion within a field.
Sanger also spoke about completeness and availability of information being important to the ideal information resource. He said if contributors add a missing piece of information to a resource then the quality improves.
"Availability is best achieved by making the resource both widespread and as inexpensive as possible," said Sanger.
According to Sanger, one of Digital Universe's features is the use of portals which will connect information from various mediums together to make access easier. For example, in addition to an encyclopedia entry about Mars, there would be links to pictures, videos or books about Mars.
Sanger said that, despite the shortcomings he feels Wikipedia has, it is currently the closest to the ideal information resource.
"What the world really needs is a single information resource that excels across the board." Sanger said this is Digital Universe's goal. "We will start engaging the public in various ways this year."

Friday, March 24, 2006

Wikipedia Accuracy

Recently Nature has investigated Wikipedia. The Nature study, results of which were published in the December 15 issue, asked scientists to assess 50 entries on scientific topics ranging from Dolly the sheep to Dmitry Mendeleev, the 19th-century Russian chemist, without telling them if the articles came from the Britannica or Wikipedia. The study found the average Britannica entry contained approximately three inaccuracies, while Wikipedia had four. Only eight "serious errors" were found, four in each encyclopedia. Britannica objected that, despite Nature's conclusion, the journal's own figures showed Wikipedia had one-third more inaccuracies.

It was also uncovered that some US politicians were trying to clean up their image. Staff of Democrat senator Tom Harkin apparently removed a paragraph from his Wikipedia entry recording his false claim to have flown combat missions over North Vietnam. Similarly, staff of Republican senator Norm Coleman rewrote his Wikipedia biography so that he was described merely as an "activist" at university, not a "liberal".

Friday, March 17, 2006

Class Action Suit Against Wikipedia

The Internet group that once solicited complaints for a class action suit against Wikipedia has shut up shop and revealed its roots. Claiming to have been prompted by the John Seigenthaler Wikipedia biography controversy, the site once sought parties to build a defamation suit against the wiki-based encyclopedia. Today, that site points to the Officialwire news service, known to be associated with Greg Lloyd Smith. The long-standing Wikipedia-alleged association between Officialwire and the QuakeAID "charity" has also been confirmed due to that site being replaced with a similar redirection.

The class action website was initially registered to one Jennifer Monroe who is affiliated with QuakeAID, an organisation which Wikipedia editors have accused of being a scam following QuakeAID personnel having created their own article on Wikipedia last year. This came at the time of the Indian Ocean earthquake, when Wikipedia user Baoutrust added QuakeAID to Wikipedia's victim donations page and sparked a dispute about the legitimacy of the organisation. Wikipedia editors did not acknowledge the tax-exempt status of the organisation which QuakeAID displayed on its home page; however, this can now only be seen via Google's cache. The 501(c) registration QuakeAID used to list is generally accepted as what defines an organisation as a charity with the United States. However, a number of groups removed QuakeAID from their public lists of charities following the Wikipedia dispute.

The dispute between QuakeAID and Wikipedia editors sparked a negative publicity campaign waged via Baou Trust's news service, OfficialWire. A number of articles which portray Wikipedia, or Wikipedians in a bad light have been published on the service. The site for the proposed class-action suit provides a link displaying results of a search of OfficialWire for stories about Wikipedia. This is not the first instance of the directors of Baou Trust using their newswire to run a smear campaign: a long-running campaign against former directors of the equity company IEQ was mounted following Greg Lloyd Smith's hostile takeover of the firm.

Smith is no stranger to controversy, having been the target of legal action by when he registered the and sites and set up an look-alike selling Greek-language books. Amazon initially filed suit in Greece, and later in the US where their complaint described initial communication from Smith as a "thinly-veiled shakedown" when he offered to sell a controlling interest in CITI to the company for $1.6 million. The Amazon suit sought triple damages under RICO statutes stating, "Fraudulent acts of mail and wire fraud, extortion and criminal copyright infringement constitute a pattern of racketeering, and pose a threat to society."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Million Articles

The collaborative online encyclopedia had a tough 2005, but it now has a million articles to share with the world. The team behind Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia written by its users, is celebrating after the English version of Wikipedia racked up its one millionth article.
The Wikimedia Foundation announced late on Wednesday 1st of March that the target had been reached, after an article about the Jordanhill railway station in Scotland was created.
Wikipedia was created in January 2001 and almost immediately proved extremely popular with Web users who welcomed the fact that its collaborative, Wiki-based approach allowed anyone to contribute to it. At present, it is growing by around 1,700 new articles every day.
However, last year it faced accusations that it was inaccurate, and was forced to block access from the US Senate and House of Representatives after political aides had heavily edited entries referring to their allies and opponents.
Wikipedia acknowledged on Wednesday that it had faced criticism in 2005, but pointed to a study published in Nature which found it was almost as trustworthy as the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Wikipedia users have been guessing when the one millionth article would be published. This pool was won by Mészáros András. Some users had predicted that the target would never be reached.
From ZDNet UK