Tag Archives: Wikipedia

Who’s behind Wikipedia: Virgil Griffith’s WikiScanner investigates

Questions continue to be asked of the credibility of information on Wikipedia, but the online encyclopedia is increasingly becoming a tool – and often a first point of call – for journalists.

Enter Virgil Griffith’s Wikiganda project and device WikiScanner, nominated for a Knight-Batten award for its use by Wired.com.

The devices could help journalists to separate fact from fiction on the site – and throw up some news leads in the process, the California Institute of Technology student told Journalism.co.uk.

1)How does WikiScanner work?
WikiScanner’s core functionality is the listing of ‘anonymous’ edits [of Wikipedia listings] via real-world organizations.

When you make an edit to Wikipedia, you have two choices: first, you can register and leave your username; or you can edit anonymously. But, when you edit anonymously, it uses your IP address – a number which identifies what computer network you are from – in lieu of a username. Wikipedia does this for convenience to distinguish your anonymous edits from someone else’s anonymous edits.

In essence, WikiScanner combines two databases: the list of all IP adresses that have made edits to Wikipedia; and what IP addresses belong to which companies. So with WikiScanner you can type a company name, and it shows you what edits have come from IP addresses owned by that company.

2) You recently upgraded Wikiscanner – why?
Pretty much everyone agrees that transparency is good for Wikipedia.

WikiScanner went a long way towards this, but it had two major flaws: it was too easy to hide from by either registering an account or by editing from home; and secondly, it took too much effort to find the interesting stuff [such as this article using the tool by Wired.com].

WikiScanner 2.0 addresses both of these defects. It tries to discover what organization registered Wikipedia accounts are coming from, and it uses some intelligence to highlight the edits that are likely to be the salacious conflict-of-interest stuff that people love to find.

3)You’ve also been working on a project call Wikiganda – what does that entail?

We all know that there are real-world organizations with radically opposed views. Wikiganda is a personal attempt to discover whether these divergent views spill over into sustained edit wars on Wikipedia. I do not know the answer to this question, but I’d like to find out.

What you do is input two real-world organizations that are ideologically opposed to each other, and Wikiganda lists the edits to pages that both organizations have modified. If the two sides are continually contradicting each other, the user flags it, and the world gets to inspect the results for themselves.

4)What’s the purpose of the project?
I am demonstrating that to have reliable information online doesn’t mean we need to erect walls blocking anonymous contributions. Instead, we can do back-end analyses of the contributions to filter out the bad stuff.

Overall – especially for non-controversial topics – Wikipedia seems to work. For controversial topics, Wikipedia can be made more reliable through techniques like this one. As for related approaches, I think colored text [a project that highlights Wikipedia articles in different colours according to their trustworthiness] is an immensely promising direction for combating disinformation in Wikipedia.

5) Do tools such as Wikiganda and WikiScanner enhance Wikipedia and other open online information sources by making them more transparent, or do they undermine them?
WikiScanner and Wikiganda do not undermine open information sources at all – it merely tells us the truth – that interested people and parties attempt to shape and influence them. From there we can take steps accordingly to address the problem.

Wikipedia first with news of Tim Russert’s death

Wikipedia updated its pages to account for the death of NBC News’ Washington bureau chief Tim Russert half an hour before a news alert was release by the Associated Press (AP), Brian Cubbison from the Syracuse Post-Standard blogs.

The first update to the online encyclopedia entry for Russert was made at 7:01pm (GMT) on June 13 to add the date of his death to the page – 35 minutes before AP’s alert.

Cubbison’s post interestingly links to a Businessweek article on the same phenomenon – a commenter on which points out that the IP address of the user who made the first amendment to Russert’s Wikipedia entry belongs to Internet Broadcasting Systems, the same company behind NBC’s website.

Associated Press: Publisher plans printed version of Wikipedia

German publisher Bertelsmann AG is planning to publish what could be the first in a series of yearbooks whose content is derived from entries on Wikipedia.

According to the Associated Press, the company said it is planning a “One-Volume Wikipedia Encyclopedia” starting in September with the content made up of 50,000 of the most-searched terms on the German language edition of Wikipedia.

Social Media Journalist: “Our future isn’t traditional online but in mobile media platforms,” Steve Smith, Spokesman-Review

Journalism.co.uk talks to reporters across the globe working at the collision of journalism and social media about how they see it changing their industry. This week, Steve Smith from The Spokesman-Review, USA.

Steve Smith, editor of the Spokesman-Review

1. Who are you and what do you do?
I am the editor of The Spokesman-Review, a 90,000 circulation daily serving several counties in eastern Washington state and north Idaho.

As editor, I supervise all news and editorial operations, including our website, our other digital platforms and our radio operations.

I have a staff of 124 full-time employees in the newsroom and an annual budget of about $9 million. I have been here since July 2002.

Before coming here, I worked in a variety of roles at seven other newspapers in six different cities.

2. Which web or mobile-based social media tools do you use on a daily basis and why?
I use YouTube daily because we post all of our multimedia on the site and also are capable of embedding YouTube videos on our blogs, including my blog, “News is a Conversation”.

I use MySpace and Facebook when hiring. We check the profiles/pages of prospective employees and actually have rejected applicants because of questionable behavior observed on their pages.

I also go into MySpace frequently to check on the pages devoted to our entertainment magazine, “7”.

In addition, I check several industry blogs daily. Several times a day, I check Romenesko, the must-read industry blog on the Poynter Institute for Media Studies site.

I do very little of this on my mobile, though I do use it for blog work, reading and posting.

I’m still somewhat of a troglodyte (no MySpace page of my own) so I don’t use the mobile to access video or social networking sites.

The Spokesman-Review is the pioneer newspaper (in the United States at least) for transparency. Our transparent newsroom initiative is built around interaction with people in our communities. Blogging and the various blogging tools are critical to us.

We also webcast news meetings and provide as much two-way interaction as possible via chats and other real-time opportunities. Increasingly, we’re developing transparency systems that work on mobile devices.

3. Of the thousands of social media tools available, could you single one out as having the most potential for news either as a publishing or a news gathering tool?
Blogging from the field has the most potential for us at the moment. We’re in the process of developing ideas for 7 that would have real non-media people posting live reports from concerts, nightclubs and other events.

We’re also involved in some beta proposals for training citizen journalists and giving them publishing platforms.

I have no idea where all of this will lead. We’re experimenting with some developing Google applications such as Google Maps and Google Street View to see how they might enhance our blogs.

4. And the most overrated in your opinion?
Tough question. I am willing to try anything with any tool. Until something proves to be useless, I won’t dismiss it.

I do believe our future isn’t in traditional online but in mobile media platforms, the potential of which is yet to be understood. That may drive us to networking tools that enhance the mobile experience.

To reference one single overrated tool, as it were, I’d have to mention Wikipedia. There is an enormous amount of information there. I go to the site often for informal searches. But journalists beware. It is a bottomless quicksand pool that will easily send reporters and editors off in the wrong direction, at best wasting time and, at worst, producing factually inaccurate, even humiliating journalism.

Social Media Journalist: “Facebook is overrated. The novelty is wearing off and people are getting bored” Matthew Buckland

Journalism.co.uk talks to reporters across the globe working at the collision of journalism and social media about how they see it changing their industry. This week, Matthew Buckland from Mail & Guardian, South Africa.

image of matthew buckland

1) Who are you and what do you do?
I am Matthew Buckland, the GM of Mail & Guardian Online.

As head of the online division I am responsible for the overall online and mobile strategy, with an overview of editorial, production, technical and online sales.

I am also involved quite heavily in our social media strategies and sites.

2) Which web or mobile-based social media tools do you use on a daily basis and why?
I use Twitter, both web and mobile. I blog on my own blog about online media, web 2.0 and technology, thoughtleader.co.za and sometimes on Poynter’s new media titbits.

I use Mybloglog on my blog quite a bit. I use Facebook web and mobile… but less and less these days. At the end of last year I began using Slideshare to share my presentations and see others. I Digg every now and again, and use a local version, Muti.co.za.

I also keep half an eyeball on Linkedin – but don’t really do it justice. I am an occasional Del.ici.ous user. I use both Flickr and Picasa as online photo albums/photo sharing.

For video sharing I use Youtube, obviously. I’m also a wikipediaholic.

I used SecondLife for about a week, but realised it would be best for my health to shut it down and never look at it again 🙂

Generally I find these social media tools are a good way of networking, sharing ideas and content, and building relationships with people. They also waste a lot of time and create noise in my life.

3) Of the thousands of social media tools available could you single one out as having the most potential for news either as a publishing or newsgathering tool?
I think of all the hyped up social media tools we’ve seen, blogging has shown that it is more than just a fad, but here to stay.

We’ve seen how mainstream online publishers have embraced blogs both as new publishing formats and newsgathering tool with considerable success.

4) And the most overrated in your opinion?

I’m beginning to think Facebook is overrated. The novelty is wearing off and people are getting bored, very quickly.