Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vicious warrior of the week: Phil Sandifer

Phil Sandifer is a textbook wikiwarrior. His pie on WikiChecker is about three quarters devoted to the Project, Help, MediaWiki and Portal namespaces, while the slice for articles is barely an eighth, if that.

It is also worthwhile to note that Phil Sandifer became a sysop in April 2004, and it was in August 2004 that he launched a dastardly attack on User:Orthogonal which led Orthogonal to get tired of Wikipedia's crap and leave the project. The "request for comments" regarding Orthogonal's alleged lack of good faith and failure to resolve a dispute started out in high melodramatic fashion, with Phil Sandifer the poor martyr accusing Orthogonal of trying to come up with a new Wikipedia policy specifically as an attack on him. Soon after Phil Sandifer's sock attack poodle certified the dispute.

I could go on, but this particular litany of melodrama is getting very tiresome. Still, it is important to be aware of such things, because that's how things are decided on Wikipedia, whether it's a matter of personnel or of determining the factual validity of something.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Myths about Wikipedia: The paid fact-checkers

In this awful economy, people are quickly realizing how thoroughly uneffective the want ads in the paper are for getting a job. They would have more fun flushing their resume down the toilet. So they realize that they must "think outside the box" in their job search, and try to figure out where the jobs could possibly be at. There's a restaurant near my house, and they don't seem to have enough waiters, or I heard in the news that there is a shortage of truck drivers, etc.

So then they think: "Wikipedia is a pretty good reference, but it has the occasional bit of false info, therefore, they need more paid fact-checkers." Such a line of thought is wrong on so many levels, but first consider why Wikipedia can't pay fact-checkers: it can't pay anyone to work on the content.

When Wikipedia started to become famous, the more puritannical elements of our society were first and foremost concerned that Wikipedia would become a source of free porn for bored teenagers. In order to escape persecution as pornographers, the Wikimedia Foundation hides behind Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act: Wikipedia doesn't provide content; it provides a service for users to post content.

Mike Godwin, Wikipedia's general counsel, is aware of this and he likes to edit Wikipedia. Therefore, his user page has the following disclaimer: "Unless it is otherwise stated, any edit or contribution to Wikimedia projects by Mike Godwin is an act of a regular member of the community, not a legal or official action of the General Counsel or the Legal Department of the Wikimedia Foundation."

Theoretically, this means that if Mike Godwin chose to upload a picture of himself going down on himself, the responsibility for that action would be solely his, and not the Wikimedia Foundation's.

A side effect of this is that then the Wikimedia Foundation is protected against claims of libel. If Mike Godwin were to edit Wikipedia to say that John McCain likes to go down on himself, again, the responsibility for such a statement would fall on Mike Godwin, and not the Foundation. However, in that scenario, we know who Mike Godwin is, whereas in real life we often have little clue as to who an IP address or a cryptic user name represents.

That sweet deal would be invalidated if Wikipedia paid anyone to check facts. The next time John McCain gets slandered on Wikipedia, people would ask if the paid fact-checkers were asleep at the wheel. So it's much easier to not pay fact-checkers at all.

If you want a job at Wikipedia, you have to be a close friend of Jimbo's. Otherwise, the only kind of job you can get in Wikipedia is the kind that doesn't pay anything, monetarily or otherwise.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Brutal warrior of the week: Amberrock

Amberrock contributes using Microsoft Windows Vista. Oh please. You're so full of yourself. His attack poodle is Ansett, which whom he frequently confabulates both on Wikipedia and through IRC.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vicious warrior of the week: Coffee

I had almost forgotten about Coffee, who, at least on Yahoo! Answers, may be a Nihilsock; I was reminded when I saw his user name come up yet again on WikiChecker's recent queries. I'm inclined to think that on Wikipedia, User:Coffee is a main account rather than a sock account, and for Yahoo! Answers Coffee has given permission to Nihiltres to have an account in his name, also signed off with saying "I'm an administrator on Wikipedia."

At the top of Coffee's user page on Wikipedia, there is a banner that says "Coffee has a real life, therefore Wikipedia isn't his main concern. He will take his time getting to queries." The banner has the Air Force logo. Notice how he doesn't say "I'm in the Air Force." You're supposed to jump to that conclusion. Frankly, I think it's disgusting to pretend to be in the military, especially these days when the National Defense ribbon is too often earned together with a Purple Heart.

And if Coffee is really so busy in real life with the Air Force, where does he find the time to create the most sophisticated Wikipedia user page I have ever seen? Maybe you don't find that convincing enough, since he hasn't edited his user page in months—oops, I mean days. Then consider this: As I write this blog entry, Coffee's logs page (which you can get to by clicking the "Logs" link on his user page 'toolbox') has at least 50 deletion actions performed today (or maybe last night, I get confused by Wikipedia's use of zulu time sometimes). And if you look at his user contributions, you still see a great deal of contributions for today.

You know, if I was as "busy in real life" as Coffee is, I would be able to write daily posts for this blog.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Myths about Wikipedia: Every article must have sources

One of the most prevalent myths about Wikipedia is that articles must have sources or else they're deleted. It is true that a lot of articles get deleted on Wikipedia, but lack of sources is rarely the real reason, though it may often be given as the official reason. Click "Random article" just a few times and you will encounter:
  • Articles with no sources whatsoever, but the article is not tagged with one of those infamous orange "This article does not cite any references or sources" tags. For example, Fairfax District (Kansas City, Kansas) as of today.
  • Articles that do cite one source in the preferred inline format yet are tagged as unreferenced just the same. For example, Ryers, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as of today.
  • Articles with one external link, which happens to be broken. For example, Oil Heritage Route as of today.
  • Articles cited with a website in a foreign language (which would be just fine if we all spoke all other languages). For example, Asmane Gnegne as of today.
  • Articles incorporating information from another language Wikipedia, where the other Wikipedia has no citations whatsoever, and the English Wikipedia has two or three footnotes all from the same place. For example, as of today, National Mint of Bolivia is pretty much trimmed down from the Spanish article though with the addition of three citations from Euromint.net.
And who knows, maybe someone will do something about the specific articles (listed in bold above) mentioned here. (And for some reason "Random article" turns up a lot of geography stubs). But for each of these example there are dozens of Wikipedia articles in similar states of uncitedness.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Searching without Wikipedia

It's so damn annoying how Wikipedia is the very first result in most of my Wikipedia searches. Sure I can suffix all my searches with "-site:wikipedia.org," but it gets rather tiresome.

To address this need, the folks at Distilled came up with a plug-in for Firefox that removes Wikipedia search results from Wikipedia. Read more about it: http://www.distilled.co.uk/blog/seo/search-google-without-wikipedia-a-firefox-search-plugin/

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Brutal warrior of the week: Jake Wartenberg

Jake Wartenberg blocked SonGoku786 "as a sockpuppet of LOTRrules." The funny thing is, that if you look past the smoke and mirrors, SonGoku786 and LOTRrules are actually both sockpuppets of Jake Wartenberg. Very well played by Jake. Most other people will be fooled.

Oh, and by the way, Jake Wartenberg is part of "WikiVoices," a project that has a cat as executive producer. This stuff is just too hilarious to invent.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Vicious warrior of the month: Bradeos Graphon

So supposedly Bradeos Graphon got married last year and that's why he hasn't edited Wikipedia in months. But we're on to him, and we're not fooled by his incredible self-control in not using his main account (which has administrator privileges). Or does it still count as self-control if some of his sockpuppets also have admin 'privileges'?

Attack of the Nihilsocks

Can you get straight answers about Wikipedia on Yahoo! Answers? Sometimes, depending on whether or not Nihiltres and his thirty or so Nihilsocks are standing by to thumb them down, or to vote for the pro-Wikipedia duckspeaking answer. Inevitably a lot of the Nihilsocks have attained Level 2 by accumulating 250 points each, meaning that they can thumb answers up or down. If an answer gets enough thumbs down, it will be hidden from view. You can vote at any level, and so you often see Nihiltres winning Best Answer with 40 or 50 votes, which is funny when you consider that most questions in the Wikipedia category get less than 20 votes total.

But this is not to say that Nihiltres is the only person who believes in the glory of Wikipedia. The existence of Nihilsocks does not negate the fact that thousands of people have fundamental misconceptions about Wikipedia, and remain oblivious to its gross inaccuracy.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Brutal warrior of the week: Drilnoth

As if editing Wikipedia wasn't fast and loose enough, Drilnoth had to go on and create a new user script to outdo "TWINKLE, Friendly, FurMe, and AssessorTags, among others." Less than 25% of Drilnoth's edits are in "article space" (according to WikiChecker.com), but surprisingly that proportion is larger than that of his edits to the "WP:" namespace. The majority of his edits are in the Image, Category and Template namespaces. Still, this is a less positive indication than someone who makes more edits in the article space than other spaces.