Looking for stories of readers affected by Wikipedia
Thu, 11 Nov 2010 06:31:15
Megan Hernandez on the staff is looking out for me, for stories of readers whose lives have been impacted by Wikipedia or the other projects. (Donors often send us stories like that, and I am often looking for stories to tell people about the projects. So I've asked her to send good ones to me.)
I was writing her a set of criteria for the kinds of stories I want, and it occurred to me that you might yourselves have some good stories of exactly this kind. So I am sending along the criteria here too :-) If you have stories that fit many/all of these criteria, please send them to me, onlist or off. And please forgive my cross-posting to several lists at once.
- Ideally, they'd be along the theme of "how Wikipedia made my life better." This might be an anecdote, or bigger-picture (ie, 'how Wikipedia makes my life better every day').
- Ideally, they would be stories of people who pre-exposure-to-Wikipedia would have had circumscribed access to information. Because they grew up in a small town with no library, because their school didn't stock certain kinds of books, because materials in their language are of limited availability, because their government limits access to certain types of information -- in general, because their economic/political/socio-cultural circumstances somehow impede(d) easy access to information.
- Ideally, the information that Wikipedia gives them is important, and directly, immediately useful. Like, it helped them better understand a health issue they were having, or it equipped them to do some important task better; it helped them understand a new situation or some aspect of themselves, or enabled them to solve an important problem. Maybe it helped them get a job they otherwise couldn't have gotten, or enabled them to avoid some specific danger or risk.
- And/or, the information fed a general curiosity and desire to understand the world better. It got them interested in going to college which nobody in their family had done before, it helped them develop a more thoughtful position on a public policy issue, it stimulated them to travel or read more widely, or to question assumptions they had been making.
- Ideally, their lives are better today because of the information they are exposed to via Wikipedia. Maybe this would be better in some really specific way -- like, "Three months later I persuaded my doctor to let me try the new treatment, and it worked." Or, it might be much more general.
- It is fine if the information they found on Wikipedia might otherwise have been kept from them, either deliberately or through lack of easy opportunity. It is fine if the information is considered risky or controversial in some way.
Thu, 11 Nov 2010 07:05:42
Check this out:
Thu, 11 Nov 2010 07:47:57
I have an anti-story, about a critically useful information that was available in a home library, yet would not be allowed on Wikipedia per its policies. Anyone interested?
Thu, 11 Nov 2010 07:50:44
It sounds like it would be allowed on Wikisource.
Thu, 11 Nov 2010 09:35:15
Back when we were under sanctions, it was impossible to buy antifreeze (or it was prohibitively expensive). So, my father remembered that in one of the books in our home library he once read that it it is possible to make antifreeze by mixing glycerine, alcohol and water in appropriate amount. It took him weeks to search through the home library, but he eventually did find the book and made his own antifreeze.
Now, I have actually found a bit of the needed information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycerol : "The minimum freezing point temperature is at about -36 °F / -37.8 °C corresponding to 60-70 % glycerol in water.". But the problem is, I would not feel comfortable with making my own antifreeze from a single sentence (for example, does it matter if you pour water in glycerine or glycerine in water?) but if more detailed instructions would be added to Wikipedia, they would be removed per WP:NOTHOWTO. The book also included a table with the freezing points of various ratios of glycerine, alcohol and water (the point was to make the cheapest mixture that would not freeze at the lowest temperature we could expect) and for this too I don't see where in Wikipedia it could be added.
> It sounds like it would be allowed on Wikisource.
It probably would be allowed on Wikibooks. But for one reason or another, people simply aren't interested enough in working on Wikibooks; Wikibooks don't show high enough in Google because the articles are not highly interlinked; and the Wikibooks howto in the opposite fashion could not have encyclopedic information in it (for example the very important section "Historical cases of contamination with diethylene glycol" that is present in the Wikipedia article and that would obviously be very important to someone who needs to make his own antifreeze).
Thu, 11 Nov 2010 09:58:22
Megan might want to contact Valérie75 http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilisateur:Val%C3%A9rie75 , who ended up writing books about the topics she contributed to on Wikipédia. The books are not under a free license (I don't think), but have received good press in their domain (ornitohology, history of naturalism and such).
Her mini bio does mention Wikipedia, and my take is that Wikipédia (and the amazing contribution she made to it) was a breakthrough in her career as an author. She has more than 50000 edits on fr wp.
Not sure if you're looking for that kind of stories, but it's a nice editor/volunteer/amateur becomes professional story.
Thu, 11 Nov 2010 16:14:22
I would be interested in seeing someplace where you would share these stories (you imply above that so far you're sharing them only verbally, in-person), or alternatively where people could share their own stories.
Would there not be a reasonable place in-world where things like this could be put up?
Thu, 11 Nov 2010 16:36:33
Well, I know I'm boring, but Eco said something related to this topic.
He started the interview stating:
"I am a compulsive user of Wikipedia, also for *arthritic* reasons: the more my back hurts, the more it costs me to get up and go to check the Treccani, so if I may find someone's birthday on Wikipedia it's all the better."
"Of course, it's a matter of time. When I write, I consult Wikipedia 30–40 times a day, because it is really helpful. When I write, I don't remember if someone was born in the 6th century or the 7th; or maybe how many *n's* are in "Goldmann"... Just a few years ago, for this kind of thing you could waste a lot of time. Nowadays, with Wikipedia and Babylon, which checks the spelling, you can save a lot."
It's not much, but one could infer that Wikipedia is useful for old famous bestseller philosphers...
Virgilio A. P. Machado <email@example.com>
Thu, 11 Nov 2010 19:57:39
Better yet, check this out:
I believe I need some serious help
Virgilio A. P. Machado <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Fri, 12 Nov 2010 23:16:56
Of that kind too, but this is not the right place. :-)
There is an almost systematic interference by «Yanguas», a wiki.pt administrator, with the user pages of the students listed on these two pages (further details available):
I would like to know if there is someone willing and able to help with this situation.
Virgilio A. P. Machado
Bericht zur Verleihung der Zedler-Medaille und Academy
Thu, 25 Nov 2010 17:13:56
Olaf Simons, a literature researcher and Wikipedian, wrote a mail on the mailing list of the German chapter about his experience both as a researcher and as a Wikipedian. I find his experience very insightful and got his allowance to forward the mail here, because I think these experiences are could also be very interesting for the folks here. We had here also from time to time (and not before long) discussions about the relations between researchers and Wikipedia. I will give a shortend summary in English about his mail, please use a translator for details (after all, I believe this is an international mailing list).
Olaf wrote about two incidents where he got into conflict in his two roles.
- In the first case he was the main author of the article Roman (novel)  in de-wp. Some time later after he worked on this article he was asked by an print literature encyclopedia (Enzyklopädie der Frühen Neuzeit) to wrote an article about the novels of the time between 1470 and 1800. He reused his earlier article from de-wp, shortend the content very strongly and submitted his article. Only at the last editorial process the publisher noticed that the article is "copied" from Wikipedia. Although the no texts are directly copied from de-wp (and Olaf was the author for both articles), one can notice that the argumentations are very similar. After the publisher discovered the similarities he rejected the article from Olaf.
- In the second case Olaf rewrited the article Aufklärung (Enlightening) . While he was working on the article other Wikipedians gave their own inputs, which Olaf thought could be problematic or at least debatable. He found himself very reluctant in tell his colleagues that the article on Wikipedia was written by him, because it is now a mixed product and contains content that he may not support, and his colleagues would not be so precise to find which part was exactly written by him and which part by the others. And he fears that his colleagues could think that he follows certain schools although he is not.
I think it is very important for us to understand the difficulties academics face if they want to join the Wikimedian community. And maybe we should rethink about our strategy and approach on working with academics.
Yaroslav M. Blanter
Thu, 25 Nov 2010 17:48:33
Just today accidentally Daniel Mietchen started the page on exactly the same topic
Input is highly welcome.
Thu, 25 Nov 2010 17:56:27
A similar thing occurred with someone within the community, tagged an article I had written with a "copyvio" which effectively blanked the entire page, replacing it with a large warning block. (How outrageous I might add that we would have such a thing.)
Someone ELSE had copied *my* article to an external link. I had added that external link just to show how the subject of my article was related to other people, his parents, children, spouses, etc in a genealogical content. But my article had additional details.
There was no attempt made to show that the EL had copied me, just the presumption that I had copied the EL. Similar to your case Ting. But of course, during the time that the tag was up, none of our five billion readers could see the article at all.
Incidents like that "don't remove this tag until an *administrator* has reviewed it..." leave mental scars on editors.
Thu, 25 Nov 2010 18:56:21
It happens more and more often that books copy from Wikipedia. I found verbatim parts of an article I had written in a book published by John Wiley & Sons the other day. No attribution whatsoever.
It's a headache for the copyright team on en:WP because they have to figure out which came first.
Thu, 25 Nov 2010 19:43:09
First there should be a presumption that established editors (I've been in-project for seven years), do not do copyvios.
Second there should be absolutely NO grant made to *admins* to police copyvio content issues. None. Zero. Admins have no position from which to make a call that is any different from an established editor or reviewer. The creeping rights of admins are just ridiculous. Admins have dozens of "rights" that established editors do not, over content, and they shouldn't.
It's an old drum that I keep beating. Admins keep granting each other more rights, and soon all that we will have in-project will be admins. No editors at all.
All content issue rights, should be removed from admins. That's my position. All of them. Every content issue right period.
Thu, 25 Nov 2010 21:51:41
Aaaand there the problem. There is no effective way of drawing a line for established editors so where you want to be able to prevent non established editors from doing something your only real option you have is to draw the line at adminship.
Thu, 25 Nov 2010 22:15:57
We have Geni, many ways to determine if someone is an established editor. We have flags already to mark people as established editors in addition to that.
Thu, 25 Nov 2010 23:30:54
On 25 November 2010 22:15, WJhonson [...] wrote:
> We have Geni, many ways to determine if someone is an established editor.
Name one that doesn't boil down to editcountitis
> We have flags already to mark people as established editors in addition to that.
I for one have no wish to turn requests for rollback in a mini RFA more than has already happened.
Fri, 26 Nov 2010 01:35:39
The police always think they are doing a fine job and don't need any accountability. All democracies have checks and balances. Those who do not, are police states. Our single hierarchical structure is just such a system with no checks and balances.
The point of having three parts to the US Government is to ensure that if you are harassed by the police you can turn to your legislator, if you are attacked by your legislator, you can turn to a judge. Wikipedia has a single structure. If you are harassed by an admin, you have no recource except to another admin. The police policing the police. I see no justice in that system. Plenty of abuse. If you're not an admin, you have no power whatsoever over a single admin deciding to silence you. And other police simply back them up.
That Geni, is the entire nature of the police state. And why a police state is not a system of government under which enlightened people wish to operate. It only takes one run-in of this sort to send the promising editor away. Suggesting this is an appropriate system to retain only shows the sort of disconnect Admins have with Editors.
You assume that any editor who wants to protect themselves from this sort of abuse should become an admin. Tantamount to any citizen wishing to protect themselves from the Police should become a policeman. I find that sort of attitude to be.... alarming.
Virgilio A. P. Machado <email@example.com>
Fri, 26 Nov 2010 02:08:54
Dear Mr. Will Johnson,
Three hurrays for the separations of powers, checks and balances and full accountability to oneself, others and the foundations of a civilized community.
You got my attention and my empathy.
Virgilio A. P. Machado
Fri, 26 Nov 2010 03:08:47
Very, very well said, Will [Johnson]. But that's exactly the way it is. That's the way it is when people who construct and manage an environment like this don't know the first thing about working constructively with other people. And that's the way it will be until it can't afford to be that way anymore.
Fri, 26 Nov 2010 03:33:53
On Thu, Nov 25, 2010 at 9:08 PM, Virgilio A. P. Machado <vam at fct.unl.pt> wrote:
> Dear Mr. Will Johnson,
> Three hurrays for the separations of powers, checks and balances and full accountability to oneself, others and the foundations of a civilized community.
Okay, but that's just to control the power of the monopoly federal government, which is STRICTLY limited in what it can do (unfortunately, most Americans have forgotten that part). To control the power of the states (which is where nearly everything SHOULD be done), there is nothing that a state can do to prevent someone from leaving or entering. If a state does a bad job, its citizens will leave. So in a wiki context, that would point to forking of articles when disagreements cannot be resolved. So, most famously, there would be two pages about Cyprus. Some people would link to one, and some to the other, and others to the disambiguation page. Likely this has been proposed before, and I'm simply ignorant of the result of the discussion.
Fri, 26 Nov 2010 04:37:39
On Thu, Nov 25, 2010 at 12:48 PM, Yaroslav M. Blanter [...] wrote:
> Just today accidentally Daniel Mietchen started the page on exactly the same topic
> Input is highly welcome.
We at Wikipedia are not by ourselves going to reform or replace the reward structure of the academic world.
The suggestion I have recently been making, is that when someone in the academic world wants to write something general, they publish one version under their name, at least on their own website, but more formally if applicable, and use another to start or add to or replace a Wikipedia article, and then not get too concerned what people do with it in detail, but keep an eye on it in general.
It would really be great if a few people publishing review articles, or, even better, textbooks, were to do this. They should think of it as a supplemental opportunity to diffuse their work very widely--especially in translation, for very few are likely to themselves prepare multiple language versions for publication? Once a good article is in one Wikipedia, others will copy it.
And the response to user case 1 (the deWP article on Roman (novel) ) is to suggest to the publisher that they regard it as a rough draft--and, of course, to say so at the start.
Sat, 27 Nov 2010 00:41:36
I would go a step further.
The most important part of the scientific work in relation to the free knowledge corpus is not their direct involvement in Wikimedia projects, but the license compatibility of their works. It is even better for them to make the work on their site and leave Wikimedians to include the work on one of the Wikimedia projects, as they will be credited for their work inside of Wikipedia, too.
In other words, much more important part of our work is to spread the idea and know-how among scientists how to share their knowledge.
At the other side, as time is passing, Wikipedia will rely more on encyclopedists than on various experts. "Encyclopedists" in our case are core Wikipedians, those who spend a lot of time on Wikipedia and who are dealing with fixing articles, maintaining the project etc.
In other words, our recruitment base are not well formed scientists, but high school students who are interested in Wikipedia (and other Wikimedia projects) per se. After five years on project, a former high school student -- probably a university student or even a fresh employee -- is much more experienced encyclopedist than any regular scientist who spent his life in research. Simply, a couple of years of daily dealing with various encyclopedic articles creates an expert in encyclopedistics.
What do we need to do is to find a way how to educate those high school students more efficiently. While it is not going so bad -- at least, our process created the biggest encyclopedia in the human history -- it could be and it should be much better.
In relation to the scientists interested in free knowledge, we could make their life easier. For example, we could host specialized encyclopedic projects for various fields, as well as for various universities and institutes. Such projects should be driven by scientists, according to their [mostly social] standards. The only rule related to those projects should be the license compatibility. And our encyclopedists would be transferring their works to Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.
Sat, 27 Nov 2010 14:32:38
I do not agree here. High school (and most undergraduate college students as well) lack the access to scientific literature and/or the experience to use it to compile NPOV descriptions. OTOH most graduate students, young professionals and scientists lack the time and the focus to contribute regularly. In this part of life, they are building a family and a career.
The most important base for recruiting should be retired professionals, teachers, scientists. They have the background and the time. Many will like the intellectual challenge and enjoy to pass on their experience.
High school students are our readers, don't confuse them with our autors.
Sat, 27 Nov 2010 15:05:14
Why would people with these expertises be useful? Wikipedia is very frustrating to people with expertise in a field, because Wikipedia places zero value on their expertise. Nothing in their experience base can be used unless it's already in print somewhere ... so how is their experience useful? I'm not calling into question the citation needed policy, but instead the idea that domain experts (professional, teachers, scientists) are needed to improve Wikipedia.
Sat, 27 Nov 2010 17:12:33
We already have a couple of generations of former high school students trained to be encyclopedists. And those who stayed with us are among the best ones. On the planet. I witnessed so many times that a university student with a couple of years of expertise has superior encyclopedic methods in comparison to many experts.
Unfortunately, retired experts have to be much more extraordinary than high schools students to be incorporated into the Wikimedia culture. Good knowledge of computers and good nerves obviously make wider gaps than learning policies and encyclopedic and [hopefully] scientific methods.
Incorporating new generations into the community is painful task. But we don't have other options.
Encyclopedic work is like any other. It needs a lot of practice to be mastered. And there is no better place on Earth to master it than Wikipedia.
Ideally, encyclopedists shouldn't be experts in particular fields, but experts in writing encyclopedia: those who are able to compile known facts into readable articles, according to the encyclopedic rules.
Sat, 27 Nov 2010 18:48:52
In a message dated 11/27/2010 7:05:39 AM Pacific Standard Time, russnelson [...] writes:
> Nothing in their experience base can be used unless it's already in print somewhere ... so how is their experience useful? I'm not calling into question the citation needed policy, but instead the idea that domain experts (professional, teachers, scientists) are needed to improve Wikipedia.
It's not necessarily experience that we would seek, but rather knowledge. Knowledge which can be transmitted to your students exactly because it can be cited, not because you simply *know*. Knowing in many cases is simply a short-hand for "I'm too lazy to figure out where to look it up."
The domain expertise is useful because experts, true experts not faux ones, know where exactly to look it up. And cite that.
Sun, 28 Nov 2010 15:18:54
If we are talking of what would ideally be the cases, we would want people who are experts in specific fields and also expert in writing about them and also expert in the specifics of working in Wikipedia. We have a few of them. We should work equally in supporting people coming to this from any possible direction: People who come with some degree of knowledge in a subject that interests them can learn it; people who come without knowing how to do research can learn how to do that, people who come without the ability to write clearly at a relatively elementary level can learn to do this, people without specific experience in Wikipedia can acquire it.
What is needed is primarily the willingness to learn. Subject experts who insist on writing at a higher level than our readers can understand on the principle that anyone who wants to read them should learn the subject first can not work effectively here if the persist in that attitude, but should stick to specialized encyclopedias. Academics who refuse to learn to write clearly should stick to the academic journals where their style is accepted. People who do not adjust to working in a collaborative environment with people of different skill levels, should write somewhere else where they can work independently, elsewhere. Those who refuse to learn the basics of our specialized conventions cannot usefully continue here. Amateurs who refuse to learn the basics of a subject they insist on writing about cannot contribute usefully in that area.
But those whose strength is in one aspect can be useful in that aspect. Librarians have the skill to find sources in any subject area. Copyeditors can makes good prose in any subject they can read. Editors in the traditional sense can organize material even in unfamiliar fields. Experts who cannot write can still correct errors. Even unskilled amateurs without the ability to write themselves can at least say what material it is that they need better explained. And at the extreme, those who do not understand our conventions make the best outside critics.
What is absolutely impossible is people in any background who insist on ownership of the work. When academics complain we cannot provide this they are correct. We cannot provide this, and with our basic structure and assumptions never shall be able to. Nor should we even try to accommodate this: we do not have am monopoly on channels for providing information. Only if we were the only way ideas could be communicated would we need to make provisions for all possible different ways of providing it, however idiosyncratic.
Mon, 29 Nov 2010 10:38:00
On 27.11.2010 18:12, Milos Rancic wrote:
> We already have a couple of generations of former high school students trained to be encyclopedists. And those who stayed with us are among the best ones. On the planet. I witnessed so many times that a university student with a couple of years of expertise has superior encyclopedic methods in comparison to many experts.
There are great people in any age or demographic group. But the highly motivated high school students don't need recruiting, they will grow from reader to author on their own. I'm talking about active recruiting and refer to the allocation of funds by the WMF for this purpose. And I strongly believe that we can get the most bang for the bucks by addressing retired professionals.
> Unfortunately, retired experts have to be much more extraordinary than high schools students to be incorporated into the Wikimedia culture. Good knowledge of computers and good nerves obviously make wider gaps than learning policies and encyclopedic and [hopefully] scientific methods.
In the bigger languages, the low hanging fruits are already covered. We really should concentrate funds to improvement of existing articles and expanding only in underdeveloped, usually highly arcane topics. For both we need people with knowledge and understanding. The latter usually only comes with experience.
> Ideally, encyclopedists shouldn't be experts in particular fields, but experts in writing encyclopedia: those who are able to compile known facts into readable articles, according to the encyclopedic rules.
That was true in the beginning. Today we really need more specific knowledge and understanding.
Sat, 4 Dec 2010 14:50:18
On 26 November 2010 01:35, WJhonson [...] wrote:
> The police always think they are doing a fine job and don't need any accountability. All democracies have checks and balances. Those who do not, are police states. Our single hierarchical structure is just such a system with no checks and balances.
Actually we have at least 3.
Editor, admin bureaucrat, steward, dev.
Everyone, foundation, foundation board.
Sat, 4 Dec 2010 16:56:30
Not three Geni, one.
Has anyone become Arbcom without being an admin?
Has anyone become Bureaucrat without being an admin?
Has anyone become Foundation Board without being an admin?
It's all one ladder.
Sure it's *possible* for a non-admin to be elected to Arbcom, but when it's never happened, the truth should be apparent.
Sat, 4 Dec 2010 19:11:53
On 4 December 2010 16:56, WJhonson [...] wrote:
> Not three Geni, one.
> Has anyone become Arbcom without being an admin?
No but nothing beyond the will of voters stopping them.
> Has anyone become Bureaucrat without being an admin?
Doesn't De having something like that
> Has anyone become Foundation Board without being an admin?
At any given time a little under 50% of them.
Admin status has enough useful tools that anyone comitted enough to wikipedia and sane enough to get elected is going to to tend to have already picked up being an admin in passing. There is however no requirement that they do so.
Virgilio A. P. Machado <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sat, 4 Dec 2010 23:42:40
At 14:50 04-12-2010, [geni] wrote:
>Actually we have at least 3.
>Editor, admin bureaucrat, steward, dev.
>Everyone, foundation, foundation board.
Could you please tell how long you have been around Wikimedia projects? I would like to have an idea of how much time it takes to find out that "we have at least three hierarchical structures." You left out at least Santa Claus.
Virgilio A. P. Machado
Virgilio A. P. Machado <email@example.com>
Sun, 5 Dec 2010 00:52:05
Dear Mr. Will Johnson
Recently I put together a text on "A civilized community." It is quite long. Nevertheless, I would welcome any suggestions, comments an/or criticism you might have.
Before that I was engaged in working on Portuguese Wikipedia governance issues, some of which are sorely shared with practically all Wikimedia projects.
Needless to say that that work has already been under attack, and has been put on hold by the divine intervention of the Meta administration.
The period for my reeducation is drawing to a close. I hope that I'll be automatically unblocked soon. If I have to rely on the enlightened benevolence of the Meta administration I might end up forgotten in the MetaGulag, just like my request for unblock has been left in MetaLimbo for almost two months now.
Before I forget, you'll find here, without any surprise, why I ended up blocked nine days later, and my unblock request ignored. Another small step for Meta; one giant leap of callousness.
But I digress. Very typical of me. I would very much welcome links, references, bibliography anything that would be helpful in developing a proper governance model for Wikimedia and other virtual projects in dire need of separation of powers, checks and balances and full accountability.
Virgilio A. P. Machado (Vapmachado)
Sun, 5 Dec 2010 01:03:18
On Sun, Dec 5, 2010 at 6:11 AM, geni [...] wrote:
>> Has anyone become Bureaucrat without being an admin?
> Doesn't De having something like that
German Wikipedia? Their crats are all admins. German Wikipedia have a rule that a checkuser, oversighter, and arbcom are all distinct bodies and one person can't serve in more than one role.
French Wikipedia has crats and checkusers who are not admins.
Sun, 5 Dec 2010 10:28:20
On 4 December 2010 23:42, Virgilio A. P. Machado <vam at fct.unl.pt> wrote:
> Could you please tell how long you have been around Wikimedia projects? I would like to have an idea of how much time it takes to find out that "we have at least three hierarchical structures." You left out at least Santa Claus.
> Totally dismayed,
> Virgilio A. P. Machado
Since mid 2004. The existence of arbcom and the foundation are hardly classified.
Sun, 5 Dec 2010 13:42:25
Sinds its not only English Wikipedia but foundation wide I can say we have people becomming Arbcom without being a Admin.. We had CheckUsers without being a admin. So its not a ladder.
Mon, 6 Dec 2010 06:59:20
Which project has had ArbCom members that were not admins?
There is a related discussion started on meta.
Mon, 6 Dec 2010 10:37:25
Dutch Wikipedia has multible members that aren't admins
Huib "Abigor" Laurens
Tue, 7 Dec 2010 10:13:31
Portuguese ArbCom members does not need to be an adm too. See please:
Béria Lima (Beh)