In the news
9/11 coverage, Wikimedia hypothetically rebranded and Wikipedia golf 2.0
9/11 anniversary casts its shadow on the wiki
I didn’t necessarily expect to feel vivid, spontaneous emotions about the 9/11 attacks on this 10th anniversary. I suspected that too much time had passed, that 10 more years in journalism had only given me that much more cynical, objective distance.
But of all things it was a simple Wikipedia timeline of 9/11 that got to me. It turned out to be rather effective at dredging up one of the scariest feelings from that horrible day a decade ago: the enormous, unprecedented scale of the attacks combined with too little information from one minute to the next to be able to guess how much bigger the disaster might get.
I literally felt my heart thud-a-thump faster and faster in my chest as I read down the Wikipedia page.
— Kyle Munson, Des Moines Register
On the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Noam Cohen of The New York Times explores the mentality and perspectives behind Wikipedia's portrayal of the topic, and specifically the concerted effort to omit mention of the conspiracy theories that appear only in the fringes of the international media portrayal of the attacks. In particular, Cohen, who often writes about Wikipedia, highlighted the distinct lack of links between the main article describing the attacks and the article on the conspiracy theories that dispute the widely accepted version of events. Indeed, as Cohen writes, "there is no description of the celebrities who have endorsed the view; no mention of poll results on the subject that show some support among the public; no account, even, of the attraction of conspiracy theories in a time of crisis".
As Cohen admits, not everyone is happy with the status quo, which is distantly removed from the consensus reached on other articles such as that describing the Rorschach test. He quotes User:Arthur Rubin, who argues that although those who believe the conspiracy theories are pushing against the consensus, the phenomenon deserves coverage. "Although the theories are fringe," wrote Rubin, "the fact that there are theories is a mainstream phenomenon." In related news, the state of links to a special "Sep11" wiki created in the aftermath of the attacks was discussed on the wikitech-l mailing list. As of time of writing, the domain name sep11.wikimedia.org redirects to the correct target (the Internet Archive) but URLs of the form http://sep11.wikimedia.org/wiki/ do not.
A minimalist makeover
Independent branding agency Moving Brands have unveiled a redesign of the Wikipedia logo, after being invited by Viewpoint Magazine to participate in their Brand Lab initiative. Asked to showcase their skills through a hypothetical redesign of a global brand, Moving Brands selected Wikipedia, based on "an initial assumption that they provided an incredible, free learning resource but were hampered with a weak brand and a ubiquitous but unimpassioned following". The Wikipedia redesign resulted in a minimalist "W"-logo made of five interconnected lines, drawing on the project's five pillars concept (mockups are available on Flickr). The consultancy identified Wikipedia's failure as an inability thus far to "communicate its own story, its offer and its role in capturing, building and disseminating global knowledge".
The analysis prompted discussion on the foundation-l mailing list about Wikimedia as a brand. Whilst there was little support for the specific logo that MovingBrands had designed, there was agreement with their analysis of the image issues Wikimedia faces, including the integration of Wikipedia and its sister projects into a single brand. "Wikipedia has a strong, widely recognizable brand, while the sister projects and the Foundation [itself] don't", wrote Orionist, while Michael Snow suggested that logo redesign, although an attractive move for other companies, was ill-suited to Wikipedia, given that the existing globe logo is well-known. Instead, respondents on the list felt that more obvious links to sister projects were the key to a more integrated Wikimedia family.
- Wikipedia vs. Britannica, gender bias round: The International Journal of Communication published Gender bias in Wikipedia and Britannica, a paper by Joseph Reagle and Lauren Rhue which found that "Wikipedia provides better coverage and longer articles, that Wikipedia typically has more articles on women than Britannica in absolute terms, but Wikipedia articles on women are more likely to be missing than articles on men relative to Britannica." Reagle is the author of a 2010 book-length study of Wikipedia, entitled Good Faith Collaboration (see Signpost review).
- Lauded by daring librarian: Writing for The Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog, "daring librarian" Gwyneth Anne Jones was emphatic in supporting the use of Wikipedia as an informational resource, commending in particular its value as background research and as a portal to further resources.
- Tricked-out encyclopaedia: Rob Lightner of CNET gives us "five clever ways to trick out Wikipedia" which are the Wikipedia Companion extension for Google Chrome, Wikipedia's keyboard shortcuts, getting feeds from Wikipedia pages, downloading Wikipedia pages as PDFs, and the WikiPreview extension for Google Chrome.
- Leading psychologist urges Wikipedia participation: Positive Psychology News Daily ran an interview with Dr. Mahzarin Banaji, the outgoing president of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), about the association's Wikipedia initiative, which encouraged psychology academics and students to contribute to the encyclopaedia. Dr. Banaji contrasted the managed contribution process of the initiative to psychologists independently contributing, remarking that "Wikipedia does not make it easy" for individuals to participate but also expressed confidence in Wikipedia's normative structures to withstand potential conflicts between contributors. She concluded by urging all psychology lecturers to assign Wikipedia contributions as a part of their courses.
- Signpost subtitle punning reaches a new Lowe: Dame Joan Collins blasted her Wikipedia biography for alleged inaccuracies, protesting that she had not, as the article claimed, romanced actor Arthur Lowe of Dad's Army fame, but rather cinematic dynasty scion Arthur Loew, Jr..
- Arkansas welcomes 'Wikipedia Brown': First Arkansas News announced the inception of its new radio show "Wikipedia Brown". Conceived out of a devotion to old-time radio and as an homage to the long-running children's literature novel series Encyclopedia Brown ("featuring a kid detective that gets some details terribly wrong"), the radio series has thus far released only its debut episode, "Rue Britannica" (MP3).
- Nine holes of wiki: The team behind Wiki Golf, a smartphone app that combines a variant of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game as applied to hyperlinked Wikipedia articles with a golf-themed scoring system, has announced its second iteration, Wiki Golf 2.0, for the iPhone and iPad. 10% of the profits are to be "donated to Wikipedia to further its mission of making knowledge open and easily accessible"; the exact amount donated so far is not known.
- Sermons from the mount: Jimbo Wales gave a presentation for Cambridge Network this Thursday, as reported in a press release from the network entitled "Wikipedia founder wows Cambridge Network audience" . Wales is expected to be the keynote speaker at BBC Radio 3's sixth annual Free Thinking Festival in Gateshead, England in early November.