Wikipedia Begins Another Fundraising Campaign

The collaboratively built encyclopedia could very accurately be thought of as public media. Content is contributed and developed entirely by volunteers. Little to no constraint on access, usually only to deal with vandalism, is enforced. As you peruse Wikipedia’s articles, whether you are doing so in a click-trance or via the common place of entries in the top fraction of search results for certain topics, notice the lack of advertising.

Mike Melanson at ReadWriteWeb has details of another aspect of Wikipedia that mirrors public media, its annual fundraising.

According to the Wikimedia Foundation, operating costs for 2010-2011 will come in at $20.4 million. Last year, the foundation received nearly a quarter million individual donations from more than 100 countries to reach its $8 million goal. This year, in addition to monetary donations the foundation is calling for readers to join in and become editors. The fundraiser itself, which the Wikimedia fundraising team has dubbed the “Fundraiser that anyone can edit”, was created in collaboration with about 1,000 volunteers.

The $16M target is just shy of twice the goal from last year. Digging into the slide deck linked in the Wikimedia Foundation’s announcement, it looks like the lion share of this year’s goal stems from operational costs and investments in the technology platform. Despite doubling the amount, the Foundation is optimistic about reaching its target based on an strong increase in individual donations. The slide deck is worth perusing if you are at all curious about how Wikimedia manages the resources it gathers from individual donors, grants and matching programs.

I have not previously donated to Wikimedia but am seriously considering it this year, on top of my usual sustaining donations to EFF and the Creative Commons. The campaign runs through January of next year, so there is time to decided and pull together some cash to do so.

Wikipedia: We Need $16 Million To Stay Free, ReadWriteWeb

Wikipedia Deploys P2P to Serve Video

Nate Anderson at Ars Technica has the details of a new technology experiment at Wikipedia.

“One potential problem with increased video usage on the Wikimedia sites is that video is many times more costly to distribute than text and images that make up Wikipedia articles today,” said today’s announcement. “Eventually bandwidth costs could saturate the foundation budget or leave less resources for other projects and programs.”

The Wikimedia Foundation is partnering with a European research group, the P2P-Next consortium, for this rollout.

Accessing video over P2P is entirely optional, the web site will detect whether a visitor has installed the Swarmplayer plugin. As Anderson explains, Swarmplayer uses BitTorrent to distribute the bandwidth demand and even is smart enough to fall back on fetching the video over HTTP if there aren’t enough peers to make the torrent more efficient.

The innovation doesn’t stop there. P2P isn’t terribly well suited to streaming media. BitTorrent doesn’t enforce any kind of ordering on the chunks of a file being downloaded. Swarmplayer uses HTTP to get the next bits of a file needed to keep feeding a stream while the torrent activity gets the pieces farther away from the playback spot on the stream.

Given how WikiMedia is working to make sure its media assets are clearly and openly licensed, this is not just a key, high profile test of P2P-Next’s technology. In this instance, it is a use that should sidestep one of the larger legal snarls of P2P, that is inadvertently making available of illicit digital copies.

Peer-to-peer tech now powers Wikipedia’s videos, Ars Technica

feeds | grep links > Carrier Claims Right to Censor SMS, Wireless in Dangerous and Remote Areas, Wikipedia’s New Article Feedback Tool, and More

Apologies once again for a sparse link dump. Spent a good portion of today’s allotted blogging time hacking on tjhe second of three scripts critical to completing the migration of my podcast production entirely to Linux. More posts on the problems and solutions I’ve developed soon.

Wikipedia Experimenting with the Semantic Web

As Technology Review explains, some demonstrations at the 2010 Semantic Technology conference show directions the collaborative encyclopedia may pursue with future development. The idea behind the semantic web is that links and document structure aren’t just mechanical, tying topics together and allowing for attractive and readable presentation. In addition, meaning would be encoded into links, why two pieces of information are related and how. Adding that same layer to a document’s structure would clarify standalone content, what parts are the table of contents, preface matter, and so on.

The first targets for Möller and Parscal are the “infoboxes” that appear as summaries on many Wikipedia pages, and the tables in entries, such as this one showing the gross national product of all the countries in the world.

That’s Erik Möller, a deputy director at the WikiMedia foundation, and colleague Trevor Parscal, a user-experience developer working for the foundation. This low hanging fruit makes sense, it already has a certain organic structure that meshes well with making it more accessible to programs looking to parse, transform and otherwise make novel use of Wikipedia’s content.

On the whole. bringing semantically meaningful structure into such a dense information source makes more sense to me than just about any application of so-called Web 3.0 principles I’ve seen so far. Wikipedia also has the kind of human processing power that would be required to drive forward truly useful markup of their content, beyond the easy to markup infoboxes and tables. I would even suggest that adding a semantic layer could attract, or re-attract, a whole crop of contributors, enriching the more steady state work that has been going on, by all accounts, more recently.

Wikipedia’s Notability Requirement Fails for FLOSS

Jason Ryan sent me a link to his quick write up about the article for dwm, an early window manager, being flagged for removal under Wikipedia’s guidelines for notability. The notice appears to have gone up just within the past day or two. Sifting through the talk page for the proposed deletion is informative, even after factoring out the inevitable trolling and meat puppetry.

The main problem is that most free software and open source projects never get significant coverage by the kinds of sources Wikipedia would like to consider. It doesn’t mean those projects haven’t made significant contributions to software as a whole or the underlying computer science. According to the commenters on the deletion notice, dwm pioneered a particular technique for laying out out program windows that was directly adopted by many subsequent projects.

I don’t think it would be hard to come up with exceptional rules for free software and open source projects based on availability of sources, depth of version control history, or any number of other metrics in terms of adoption and support. However, how do you sustain this sort of exceptionalism for the next article representing a class of things for which the notability guidelines so thoroughly fail.

I don’t know the answer to this conundrum but I also have to wonder how widespread this problem is. I suspect that the frequency of such deletions may be small enough for the time being that the case-by-case deliberation may work just fine. I’d like to see a broader analysis before I agree with the practical need for exceptions or even more systemic changes to Wikipedia’s guidelines, as much as I agree with the objections in this case solely on principle.

Re-introduced Cybersecurity Bill, Clarifying Wikipedia’s Flagged Edits, and More

I did manage to bookmark a few links over the long weekend. Here are a few news stories with comments from last week. I am continuing to experiment with the format for these daily (or near daily) posts. My goal is to come up with a title that hints at the links. Having distinct titles should also make the posts a bit easier to refer to conversationally.

  • Problematic cybersecurity bill returns with little noticeable change
    The EFF calls attention to the minor, cosmetic changes in the new draft of the bill. They also point out how the revisions were worked on behind closed doors. There is a link in their post to some additional coverage of what is most troubling privacy wise in both versions of the bill.
  • Experts sought by fed to develop voting standards
    This Wired article discusses four new openings for the EAC’s advisory body for electronic voting. There have been some excellent inclusions in past members from the tech and academic world. The application deadline is past so we should hear soon who has filled the open positions.
  • Clarification on Wikipedia’s flagged edits
    Cory has a very clear, brief explanation of the intent and mechanism provided by flagged revisions. The goal seems to be more as an aid to verifying trusted revisions when rolling back is required, rather than an external signal of trust-worthiness as it first appeared to me.
  • Constitutionality of CRB to be tested
    Mike Masnick explains at Techdirt that the problem stems from some procedural changes that could invalidate appointees to the board. More critically, in the wake of several passed opportunities to test this potential problem, now a suit is being pressed specifically on this issue.
  • Flickr changes policy after Obama pic takedown
    RWW continues their excellent coverage of this odd story. The compromise, of removing only a contested image but leaving its page and attendant data in place, seems like a reasonable compromise. It doesn’t mean that Flickr will back off at all, though, on how quickly the react to controversial images.
  • Opera enables Unite feature in latest alpha, given more a chance to try it
    RWW has a decent review of the features enabled by Unite, basically a web server embedded in the browser. While some of the ideas seem neat, overall it still seems rather “meh”-worthy.

Quick News for 8/31/2009

  • IP stack in a tweet
    Sure, it is the usual for fun kind of effort but it does make you wonder. Other folks have tried to push data compression to see what is possible with the 140 character limit. Why not do the same for nano-programs. I wonder what sort of sharing might be possible, though the more obvious scenarios involve attackers and spammers spreading malware nano-programs.
  • Google to hand over IP addresses of Caribbean journalists
    This WikiLeaks article makes it pretty clear that this is not a may for Google, but definitely a will. It is under the auspices of a libel suit, one of the few limits on free speech but I wonder if that claim holds water here. The statements deemed libelous were made as part of a government inquiry and at least the WikiLeaks article is careful to label them as allegations, not fact.
  • A response to the good enough revolution
    Mike Masnick offers a rebuttal on Techdirt to this story to which I linked earlier. Masnick’s post is well worth a read but in brief, basically contends that the good enough lamented in the Wired piece is actually best when measured correctly. Any shortcoming is a bias of the observer.
  • Turing apology campaign gains momentum
    The field of computing is lousy with some regrettable social ills, most notably a perverse gender bias. What happened to Turing at the hands of his own government makes these problems pale. I do like that those spear heading this campaign are open to their efforts having a benefit just by helping more people understand the importance of Turing’s contributions to modern computing. I genuinely hope they manage to achieve much more than that for this misunderstood pioneer.
  • Wikipedia to color code edits from less trusted authors, editors
    Mike Masnick has the details at Techdirt though many other sources are also pointing to this story. We’ll see how it works in practice but in theory I like the idea of an explicit signal that a source may need checking. It’s a subtle distinction from flagging the accuracy of the article itself, which may be high regardless of the contributor’s trust status. I think it is continuous with other changes the site has been making recently to improve quality of information.
  • Lori Drew case dismissed for vagueness
    Wired has the details of the judge’s written ruling following up on his ealrier decision in the case. The ruling speaks to the very problematic charge under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act from the lower court’s ruling, overturning for exactly the reasons we would hope. Namely that it sets a very dangerous precedent that encourages vague and over broad interpretation of the CFAA.