Tag Archives: wikipedia

A Liberal Wikipedia event


One of the enduring appeals about Wikipedia for me has always been not just its laudable status as a free-at-the-point of access and advert free educational resource, but the still exciting fact that it’s a community-written and maintained site. Yes, that can have drawbacks in the form of heated editing wars over punctuation or articles being targeted by online wags or trolls, much like the LDV comments section at times! Generally however its success is demonstrated by just how relied upon and ubiquitous it’s become – I’m pretty confident most reading this will have read a Wikipedia article recently too.

The irony is however that although very many people read Wikipedia’s content (half a billion people a month or thereabouts) very few actually engage in creating it. In the UK there are perhaps only around 15,000 editors, and of these the majority only occasionally chip in to correct a typo or add a link. Despite its breadth and reach (more than 5 million English language articles, articles in more than 120 languages, multiple linked projects to cover not just encyclopedic content but images, quotes, data sets, educational resources and news articles) it is still very much in its infancy with vast swathes of history, science, philosophy and art untouched or poorly covered.

This is the challenge that a little-known charity, and my other volunteering love beside the Lib Dems, is trying to meet. Wikimedia UK works with institutions and groups across the UK, trying to get people editing and contributing specialist knowledge. It’s probably at about this point in the article you might legitimately be questioning why this is of interest to Lib Dem Voice readers.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 2 Comments

Wikipedia “edit-a-thon” on Liberal History

Wikipedia will be holding an “edit-a-thon” on Liberal History at the National Liberal Club on Wednesday 24th August. All are welcome.

This edit-a-thon is a collaboration between the Club and the Wikimedia Foundation (which runs Wikipedia), to get better, more in-depth coverage of liberal issues and liberal history in the online encyclopaedia, updating and expanding articles.

Wikipedia is the seventh-most-visited website and the world, and is the first port-of-call for many basic background facts, so the National Liberal Club thought it would be helpful to offer its backing to improve coverage of liberal issues. The NLC will be making its library — full of rare material around liberal history — available for the event.

The NLC is particularly proud to be doing this, as it has long been the spiritual home of Liberals and Liberal Democrats. Founded by Gladstone in 1882, the club provides a sumptuous “home from home” for those interested in liberal politics and the liberal arts: you can read more about it here, on the club’s own Wikipedia page.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 6 Comments

Does anyone give a hoot about the Grant Shapps furore? Even if the Lib Dem press office and Nick Clegg make us laugh

Grant Shapps, a Conservative who’s been getting himself into all sorts of scrapes for some years now. That is, of course, if he can remember his name. 

We’ve clearly got to that stage of an election where the journalists just want to have some fun. Rather than discuss the major issues of the day – remember that hundreds of people have drowned in the last week – the media is all in a spin about a Guardian story which suggests that Shapps is behind a Wikipedia profile which has edited the pages of various Conservatives, including Shapps, to either add or remove critical or embarrassing facts.

The Lib Dem Press Office responded with great humour and have had some great plaudits for it:

And even Nick Clegg got in on the act, saying rather mischievously at his press conference that:

Well, Grant Shapps has fervently denied that he had anything to do with it. He himself does not have the time apparently to edit his own Wikipedia entry. I’m prepared to believe him. It could have been someone else. Michael Green for instance.

It is all very funny, but how many votes is this going to win for anyone? Will people actually change their vote based on this? Does anyone outside the Westminster media bubble actually care?

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 32 Comments

Wikipedia bans Church of Scientology

That’s the headline from The Register:

In an unprecedented effort to crack down on self-serving edits, the Wikipedia supreme court has banned contributions from all IP addresses owned or operated by the Church of Scientology and its associates.

Closing out the longest-running court case in Wikiland history, the site’s Arbitration Committee voted 10 to 0 (with one abstention) in favor of the move, which takes effect immediately…

Some have argued that those editing from Scientology IPs may be doing so without instruction from the Church hierarchy. But a former member of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs – a department officially responsible

Posted in News and Online politics | Also tagged | 4 Comments

What can you trust on Wikipedia?

Wikipedia’s dominance of search results (and the increasing degree to which people equate research to putting something into Google) means it often takes some effort to avoid ending up relying directly or indirectly on the accuracy of information contained in it.

There are though some basic points to bear in mind when wondering whether to trust what you’ve found. Here’s the checklist that I use:

The more surprising the information, the less likely it is to be accurate: whether it is a typo, a mistake or a piece of misdirection in the name of humour, the really surprising information is often so surprising because it is actually wrong. (No, Robbie Williams doesn’t make his money by eating domestic pets in pubs in and around Stoke and no, David Beckham was not an 18th century Chinese goalkeeper.)

The people who contribute to Wikipedia are not a representative sample of the world’s population: as of January 2006, for example, less than 50,000 people worldwide had made five or more edits and as of February that year about 615 people had made more than half of all the edits on the site.

That 50,000 is far, far more than the number of people who contribute to traditional encyclopaedias, but it is a very lopsided slice of humanity. Want to know who was the supporting female actor in a US TV show of the 1990s that was axed after four episodes and only shown once in Britain? Wikipedia’s your friend. But – and it is a crude but useful cliche – the less your topic is likely to be of interest to a computer-obsessed Western teenager, the less likely it is to be well covered. You may be pleasantly surprised, but the further you wander from this comfort zone, the more variable the information becomes.

The more controversial the topic, the better the Wikipedia entry is usually: the slightly counter-intuitive point has perhaps been the most surprising discovery for me as I have used Wikipedia over the years.

Posted in Online politics | 2 Comments

Do we think?

The PoliticsOnline website ran this book review from me last week. As it touches on wider issues about how political parties should, or shouldn’t, approach the internet, I’ve reproduced it here:

We-Think, last year’s Charles Leadbeater book, is – as you would expect from him – an interesting and thoughtful study. It clearly and persuasively lays out how “an unparalleled wave of online creativity” is upon us, with collaborative efforts such as Wikipedia providing information for free and in a way that would have been previously unthinkable.

Underlying it though is an assumption which features on the book’s cover: “The …

Posted in Books, Online politics and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 1 Comment

Book review: What should you be getting up to on the internet?

Should politicians blog? Does it matter if a local party has a website that allows comments or not? Is it a good idea for a councillor to stick a film of themselves up on YouTube? Is the local party organiser really doing something useful on Facebook?

Answering any of these questions requires more than a technical understanding of how you use the services. It requires instead an understanding of what your organisational and communication objectives are, and then how these technologies may, or may not, help you achieve them.

Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff’s Groundswell makes this point for commercial organisations. It sets out to help organisations answer the question of whether, and if so how, they should be making use of social computing – those tools which heavily rely on interaction between people, feedback and content generated by the public such as YouTube, Wikipedia, MySpace and blogs.

Posted in Books and Online politics | Also tagged and | 1 Comment

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