Is Wikipedia going commercial?

“Having commissioned articles on Wikipedia dilutes one of the last respites from commercialization on the Internet. Perhaps worse, these commissioned endorsements are hidden by the guise of pure encyclopedic information.” (Maura Ewing,

“If PR editing from Wikipedia’s representatives — paid or not — were to be openly tolerated, Wikipedia’s reputation will most certainly be harmed in a way that is different from the harm done from vandalism or covert PR editing.” (Violet Blue, CNET)

My Dissertation Now Available

Greetings everyone…My dissertation “Network of Knowledge: Wikipedia as a Sociotechnical System of Intelligence” is now available here on the blog.

It will be permanently downloadable from the About Me page, but I also wanted to put it here on the front page in hopes that it might spur questions and comments.

A huge thanks to all of the bot operators and Wikipedia contributors who participated in the study. I plan to continue this research (once I get the IRB approval at my new institution) and would love to chat with other WP bot operators and people involved in the creation, maintenance, and governance of automated and semi-automated tools. Please email me if you’re interested.

How Kate Middleton’s Wedding Gown Demonstrates Wikipedia’s Woman Problem

How Kate Middleton’s Wedding Gown Demonstrates Wikipedia’s Woman Problem - Slate

Photo by CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

“The day of the royal wedding, a Wikipedia article about the dress was flagged for deletion. This prompted an energetic debate, as you can see on the dress’s “article for deletion” page. “ ‘Wedding dress of…’ as an article in an encyclopaedia? Exactly the sort of thing that made me all but quit as an active user on this project,” one user complained. “This is frankly trivial, and surely isn’t notable enough to be on wikipedia,” argued another. It wasn’t only men who wanted the article nixed. On the article’s Talk page(where editors debate changes), a female user wrote: “LOL, my thoughts exactly. Will there be an article on her shoes, too?”

Several male users came out in support of the Middleton dress article—including Wales. The day after the wedding, Wales weighed in, contending that they should keep the article because of the dress’ presumable long-term effect on fashion. (In his comments, he drew the same parallel to Linux distributions. He likes that comparison a lot.) Furthermore, he said, they should have items on other famous dresses as well.” (Torie Bosch, Slate)

After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses

After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses - New York Times

Photo: Ángel Franco/The New York Times

“In the 1950s, having the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the bookshelf was akin to a station wagon in the garage or a black-and-white Zenith in the den, a possession coveted for its usefulness and as a goalpost for an aspirational middle class. Buying a set was often a financial stretch, and many families had to pay for it in monthly installments.

But in recent years, print reference books have been almost completely overtaken by the Internet and its vast spread of resources, including specialized Web sites and the hugely popular — and free — online encyclopedia Wikipedia.” (Julie Bosman,

A few other views:
On the death of Encyclopaedia Britannica: All authoritarian regimes eventually fall (Jim Sollisch, Christian Science Monitor)
Encyclopaedia Britannica announces final entry for print edition, continues in digital form (Associated Press)

The Dilemma of Being a Cyborg

The Dilemma of Being a Cyborg - New York Times

Image: Tom Gauld

“Foer said, ‘What makes things memorable is that they are meaningful, significant, colorful.’ Data is weightless and characterless and takes up very little space. The more of it we save, the more we lose the ability to differentiate it, to assign significance and meaning.

I’m pretty sure, for instance, that my husband still doesn’t know my phone number, which he stored on his phone on the day we met, whereas I remember his because he wrote it down for me on a tiny scrap of paper that I pinned to my bulletin board, where it gradually accrued meaning. In my mind, my husband’s phone number is inextricable from his handwriting, and it lives on a jagged-edged, ephemeral scrap that resurfaces every once in a while, usually when I’m looking for something else.” (Carina Chocano,

Computer Coding: Not for Geeks Only

Computer Coding: Not for Geeks Only - Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Image: Bloomberg

“On Jan. 1, Sims and Bubinski put up a Web page urging people to make learning to code their New Year’s resolution. As of Jan. 24, over 360,000 people had signed the pledge and agreed to let Codecademy send them new lessons—homework, essentially—each week. ‘There’s a cohort of hundreds of thousands of people who are all learning at the same time,’ says Sims, ‘and they’ll be conversational in how to build basic Web applications and sites at the end of the year. It’s extraordinary.’ ” (Barrett W. Sheridan & Brendan Greeley, Bloomberg)

Google’s ‘Babel fish’ heralds future of translation

Google’s ‘Babel fish’ heralds future of translation - Tech Central

Image: Quatermass - Wikimedia Commons

“Because of the statistical approach, you may enter something and get some crazy translation. What we are trying to do is limit those crazy translations and ensure in all cases we are providing a reasonable translation.  This really comes from the fact that this is a statistical system. We’ve built it so you can literally put anything into it. We will translate anything you give us. It might be good or it might be bad, but on average it will be quite impressive.” (Ashish Venugopal, TECH CENTRAL)

And check out the Google Gadget Babel Fish Language Translation.