Category Archives: wikipedia

Wikimedia Foundation Introduced Wikimedia Enterprise

The Wikimedia Foundation, a nonprofit, has introduced a new product called Wikimedia Enterprise. The Wikimedia Enterprise product “provides paid developer tools and services that make it easier for companies and organizations to consume and re-use Wikimedia data.” It will be released “later in 2021.” Companies and organizations that want to find out more about this new product can do so by filling out a short form on the Wikimedia Enterprise website.

Wired reported that Wikipedia “is seeking to re-balance its relationships with Google and the big tech firms like Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, whose platforms and virtual assistants lean on Wikipedia as a cost-free virtual crib sheet.” To me, it seems fair for Wikimedia Foundation to charge big tech companies for use of the vast amount of information that can be found on Wikipedia.

As you may have expected, there is an official Wikimedia Enterprise/Essay on the Wikimedia Meta-Wiki. It includes the following information:

…As a result, our content is often repurposed by commercial organizations that rely on it to support their business models, and which consequently earn revenue from it. Outside of voluntary corporate donations to the Wikimedia Foundation, the movement has never received benefits from any of its revenue through return investment….

Wikimedia Enterprise is being developed as a resource aimed at commercial users “who have product, service, and system requirements that go beyond” what Wikimedia freely provides. “All Enterprise API revenue will unequivocally be used to support the Wikimedia mission – for example, to fund Wikimedia programs or help grow the Wikimedia Endowment.”

As far as I can tell, Wikimedia Foundation intends to keep the majority of its services free for everyone to use. The Wikimedia Enterprise Essay states: “… The ability to freely access the knowledge available across all Wikimedia projects has always been core to the mission of the Foundation and the movement.” The only group that may soon have to pay to use Wikimedia Foundation’s products and services are big companies that have been using it for free for years.

The Internet Archive is Making Wikipedia More Credible

The Internet Archive announced that is has transformed 130,000 references to books in Wikipedia into live links for 50,000 digitized Internet Archive books in several Wikipedia language editions (including English, Greek, and Arabic). The result of this ongoing work could make Wikipedia more credible because users will be able to source material in a single click.

Students are often instructed not to use Wikipedia as a source in their research papers. One reason for that is likely because some of the claims on a typical Wikipedia page lack links to the source material. Sentences on Wikipedia that lack sources are given a “citation needed” label that instantly helps users know that the sentence may not be accurate. Some teachers allow students to start with Wikipedia – but do not allow Wikipedia itself to be used as a source.

The Internet Archive provided an example of how they are improving Wikipedia.

For example, the Wikipedia article on Martin Luther King Jr. cites the book To Redeem the Soul of America, by Adam Fairclough. That citation now links directly to page 299 inside the digital version of the book provided by the Internet Archive. There are 66 cited and linked books on that article alone.

Anyone reading Wikipedia who wants to see more information on a source can click on the link provided. They can see a couple of pages to preview that book. Those who want to read more (such as students who are writing a research paper) can borrow the digital copy of that book using Controlled Digital Lending. The Internet Archive says Controlled Digital Lending is “analogous to how they borrow physical books from their local library.”

Wired reported that The Internet Archive was in a unique position to improve Wikipedia. Their Wayback Machine service has archived 387 billion webpages since 2001. It has also been digitizing books and other analog media, and has scanned 3.8 million books. The project is ongoing and The Internet Archive is seeking people who want to help with it.

Wikipedia manipulation exposed

The Register reports on how the wikipedia entries on short selling, and possibly other financial sections where being controlled by a person with a very biased view on these subjects. The article alleges that one the effects control of this section of articles had was to supress discussion of the negative side of ‘naked short selling’. This type of activity has had an impact on the current financial crisis, and the supression of discussion bridged into the mainstream press.

The worry from a technical viewpoint is that someone was essentially given moderater style controls over a topic that they had a vested interest in. I find this disturbing as these clear conflicts of interest should be easy to avoid. I do not think it is necessary to have any more checks on contributers identities than there already is. There are a number of people that track for spurious entries and it is better to make it easy to contribute so more information comes in.

The topic moderators, acting as editors of the content should be held to a much higher standard of identification. If no person on Wikipedia was allowed to become a moderator, or any kind of administrator, without some verifiable identity checking being performed. It would be silly to expect absolute accuracy from a service like Wikipedia. If it is to survive though, it must demonstrate that it is protecting itself from such gross manipulations as seems to have occured here. It really also needs to take steps to make sure it is protected to some degree from agendas.

Each person with any moderation or administration responcibility needs to verify their true identity in some way. They then need to be vetted for any potential conflicts of interest. A conflict should not bar them from looking after a topic as their knowledge would be valuable in evaluating what goes on there. If there is a conflict a second person that has no conflict should be required to verify their decisions. This second person (or people) don’t need the knowledge they just need to challenge the moderator for evidence to backup their decision. While these people do not need to have their full identities disclosed any potential conflicts of interest should be clearly stated on their profile.

Conflicts of interest in Wikipedia’s conflict of interest controls

A very well researched and written story on The Register on a Wikipedia admin with a conflict of interest. While this admin edits a lot of the entries on cults, he is a previous (or maybe even current) member of one of the ‘guru’s’ he edits a page for. While it is well argued that his edits are biased he is technically operating within the bounds of Wikipedia’s conflict of interest policy. However this particular admin has also had a large hand in modifying the COI policy, and runs the conflict of interest noticeboard.

What will be interesting is how Wikipedia handles this. While I am sure some will take this as further evidence that Wikipedia is an unreliable source of information. In reality though, I am sure that there are similar things happening in just about every information source, the media in particular is rife with hidden agendas and half truths. The difference with Wikipedia is that the history of how the information was collated is there for all to see. The Register reporter would not have been able to gather such a complete picture of the story if the situation had occured in a different publication.

It is almost impossible to eliminate conflicts of interest when you have people involved in a project. What this may show is that openess of the process makes it easier for these COIs to be found. This in turn makes for a more reliable information source.

Dynamics of the Wikipedia

There has been a lot written about the Wikipedia lately and most of it pretty negative. So today when I saw Dave Winer link to an essay on the subject I expected another flame fest. But what has been posted is a viewpoint that I am sure many of us will agree on. A key phrase that starts the article gives you some indication of where he is gonna go in the write up

“The hive mind is for the most part stupid and boring. Why pay attention to it?”