Monday, May 24, 2021

@Wikimedia needs your support because what it does, what we do is not enough

 An article in the "Daily Dot" insists that Wikimedia has plenty of money.  This is based on the growth of Wikimedia budgets and yes, it has grown substantially over time. Particularly the English Wikipedia provides a lot of content and serves some 50% of the Wikimedia traffic. 

When people analyse its content, it becomes problematic. Even though its content is referenced, many of the references are old and could do with new insights that science brings on a regular basis. The content is male oriented and thanks to projects like "Women in Red" it has improved substantially but not enough. 

We know all mayors of Denver and we do not know National government ministers of African countries. Lists are to be maintained on EVERY Wikipedia, English consensus insists, and they are not properly maintained as a result. Not even on the English Wikipedia.

Money buys you things. When you donate to the WMF, you gain a sense of ownership. That is important; we may not need more money but we do need a sense of ownership in India, Columbia, Nigeria and Guinea. When the other 50% of Wikimedia traffic takes ownership away from those who had enough, we find topics with more real world relevance. Commons becomes usable in the other 299 languages and we seek out these 299 communities to make it work for them.

Given that we don't do enough for 300 languages, given that we can do much better, I will argue that Wikimedia needs more support, even money.

Thanks, GerardM

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Listeria, motivation and the Sharif of Mecca

Awn ar-Rafiq was the Sharif of Mecca from 1882 to 1905. Doesn't he look splendid in his regalia?

The Sharif of Mecca was a high placed functionary of the Ottoman Empire for many years and as such there is a Listeria list for the Sharif of Mecca. The point of these lists is that the quality of the information we maintain about the Ottoman Empire is not of a high quality. The Ottoman Empire existed longer than the Roman Empire, covered a larger expanse  and it is not yet one hundred years ago when it came to an end.

I looked into lists of functionaries on several Wikipedias and they are not consistent. So I created Listeria lists and as people add things to Wikidata, these lists are updated.. that is the theory and I am happy that this functionality has been restored.

The best bit is when other people take an interest as well. A new functionary is added; ولي الدين رفعت باشا and he will get his place in the list .. Google translates it into "Wali al-Din Rifat Pasha" and hey we can bring things to the next level.

Lists like these should be stable and they do entice cooperation. It is why I am so grateful that Magnus spend some time reviving the functionality.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Ponderings on a book: Flammable Australia The Fire Regimes and Biodiversity of a Continent

Books are often used as a reference in a scientific publication. As I often add "citations" to individual papers, I find that books are a headache. Wikidata only "knows" about this book through two book reviews. When you google the book there are two versions of the book. Open Library "knows" about both versions but has no readable version. What I need is a reference to only one chapter of the book.

The first thing I did was changed the reviews into reviews, add the book and linked the reviews to the book. Open Library knows about two versions of the book. I linked both versions to the same author and linked the 2001 version to Wikidata. Finally I added the chapter in a haphazard way to the paper I am working on.

It is unlikely that I will ever read the book and it is very likely that others will frown on the way I added the book to Wikidata. However, for me "level 0 of data quality" applies; with data available particularly linked data, it is much easier to find fault and improve on what is there. I know that a bot will format the ISBN-10 entry I included.

The one reason why I add books is because books linked to OpenLibrary may be read by a wider public. Obviously not all books are available at this time, but the cumulative effect of adding all the books, all these links enrich the ability to read, to share in the sum of available knowledge.

Thanks, GerardM

Sunday, May 09, 2021

The @Wikimedia's #endowment aim is to reduce risk.

When you assess risk, when the purpose of the Wikimedia's endowment is to ensure the future operation of Wikipedia and probably other projects like Commons as well, money is not the only risk to consider.

The current government of the USA operates in a way that poses no or little thread to the continued operation of the WMF. However, the USA is a two party system and the same can not be said when the Republican Party is to return to power. 

All the servers that run the Wikimedia projects are currently in the United States. With servers able to run the full stack of Wikimedia projects elsewhere, two objectives are served. 

  • up to date data becomes closer to the readers close to the new servers
  • the risk of an USA that turns on the Wikimedia Foundation is mitigated
The WMF does not need to use the endowment to make this happen. Given its current finances, it should be an operational decision.

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Wikipedia is a "Work in Progress"

In many ways Wikipedia reflects the world as both are ever evolving. Once an article is finished for the moment, it in effect becomes a time capsule comprised of text, images and references. All these sleeping beauties wait for an update that comes once the realisation sets in that the article is behind the times. With 6,290,486 articles, it is obvious that there is a Bell curve of articles ranging from "up to date" to "out of date". 

So far the "Watch list" has been reactive. There are a few areas that can indicate that an article needs attention because it may be out of date. Wikipedia articles have references, when a reference is a "scholarly article", it is normal when an article will be cited by future articles. These publication can strengthen or weaken the assertions made in a Wikipedia article.

In Wikidata there is a bot that continuously updates "scholarly articles" with its citations. When one of these articles is used as a reference in Wikipedia, it merits attention. This can be reflected both on a Watch list and on the article itself.

Having the latest literature available will help settling disputes among editors as well.