Boing Boing 

NYPD caught wikiwashing Wikipedia entries on police brutality

Anonymous users from NYPD's IP block have made questionable edits to the Wikipedia entries on high-profile police brutality victims including Eric Garner, Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo.

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Wikimedia sues the NSA

The Wikimedia Foundation -- which oversees Wikipedia -- eight other organizations, and the ACLU have filed a lawsuit against the DoJ and the NSA, contesting the spy agency's program of mass "upstream" surveillance.

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Wikipedian corrects 15,000+ instances of "comprised of"

Bryan "Griaffedata" Henderson is on a mission to change every instance of "comprised of" to "composed of" or "consists of" -- and he's written a manifesto on the subject.

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Each day's top-viewed Wikipedia article in 2014


What do Laverne Cox, Crimea, and Malware have in common? Each was a top-viewed Wikipedia article for at least one day in 2014.

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Senate IP address vandalizes Wikipedia to scrub "torture" from CIA torture report

An anonymous editor at -- registered to the US Senate -- has repeatedly attempted to scrub the word "torture" from the Wikipedia entry from Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture.

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Wikipedia: Deleted articles with freaky titles

"Cambodian scrotum theives," "Dating Rules From My Future Self,"Fake articles and entries in dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference books, lists, and directories as well as fictitious places, streets or other intentionally fake insertions in maps," "The Fax Machine Monster of Basildon,"

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Wikipedia bans Congressional IP address for transphobic vandalism (again)

A Congressional staffer, or someone with access to their network, has repeatedly modified Wikipedia articles to insert transphobic slurs, prompting the second month-long lockout for the Congressional IP address in less than a month.

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Brits trust Wikipedia more than the BBC, "serious" newspapers

According to a Yougov poll, 64% of Britons believe Wikipedia tells the truth "a great deal" or "a fair amount."

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Wikipedia's redesign prototype

Ed writes, "You know how every now and then a design studio releases a proposal for a redesign of Wikipedia? (there's a Wikipedia page listing them, of course)"

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Twitterbots that tweet anonymous Wikipedia edits from Parliament, Congress

The @parliamentedits account tweets anonymous edits to Wikipedia made from the UK parliament's IP block, and thanks to an open codebase, it's being adapted to watch other legislatures, including the US Congress.

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Anonymous edits to Norwegian Wikipedia from Norwegian government IPs

Here's Jari Bakken's collection of edits made to Norwegian Wikipedia from the IP range assigned to the Norwegian parliament and government offices.

Imagine how great it would be if all these Norwegian bureaucrats, wonks, officials and others declared their interest and made their efforts public, working with Norwegian wikipedians to improve the quality of the encyclopedia in the open.

Anonymous Wikipedia edits from the Norwegian parliament and government offices [Jari Bakken] (via Hacker News)

How Wikipedia can become a no-asshole-zone

Sumana writes, "I gave the opening keynote address at Wiki Conference USA last weekend, and told Wikipedians what needs to change to make the site friendlier and more hospitable. I mixed in wisdom from John Scalzi, XKCD, Hacker School, and the Ada Initiative. The transcript and a thirty-minute audio recording (Ogg) are now up."

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Jimmy Wales tells "energy workers" that Wikipedia won't publish woo, "the work of lunatic charlatans isn't the equivalent of 'true scientific discourse'"

The Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP) set up a petition asking Wikipedia to make it easier to post crazy pseudo-science to Wikipedia, specifically information about "Energy Medicine, Energy Psychology, and specific approaches such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques, Thought Field Therapy, and the Tapas Acupressure Technique."

In response, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales said "no," very emphatically. He told the petitioners that Wikipedia would continue to accept material published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, but would not "pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of 'true scientific discourse.' It isn't."

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UC Berkeley gets its first Wikipedian in Residence

UC Berkeley has just appointed its first Wikipedian in Residence: Kevin Gorman, who has been a Wikipedia editor since he was a Berkeley undergraduate. Though some 50 cultural institutions -- libraries, museums and archives -- have Wikipedians in Residence, Gorman is the first to serve at an academic institution. His own work focuses on improving gender diversity and cultural diversity in Wikipedia editing, and he's assisting professors in crafting assignments that have students using and improving Wikipedia as part of their class-work.

When I was teaching at USC, I assigned my students to help improve Wikipedia articles by sourcing and footnoting facts in articles related to our lectures, and reviewed their contributions and the ensuing discussion in the articles' Talk pages as part of our weekly classes. It was a very satisfying exercise, especially as it ensured that the work of my students served some wider scholarly and social purpose, as opposed to term papers and exercises that no one -- not me, not the students -- would ever want to read after they were graded.

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Funded Wikimedians-in-Residence available to UK institutions

John writes, "Wikimedia UK is looking for UK institutions eager to work with Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects by hosting funded Wikimedian in Residence posts. Wikimedia UK is the UK chapter of the Wikimedia movement, collecting, developing, promoting and distributing freely licensed knowledge."

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Med school students assigned to improve most-used medical Wikipedia entries

Dr. Amin Azzam who teaches at the UCSF school of medicine, has created an elective for his fourth year students in which they are assigned to improve the most-used medical Wikipedia entries. Students are given Wikipedia orientation and taught how to be good participants in the project. This is especially relevant given the fact that Wikipedia is the most-used reference among doctors and medical students. The students prioritize the most-cited, most-visited entries, and they are working with wikipedians to have these entries translated into many other languages, as well as adapting it for the "simple English" version of Wikipedia.

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Royal Society appoints a Wikipedian-in-Residence

Richard writes, "I work for Wikimedia UK - the UK charity that supports Wikipedia - and we just managed to get the Royal Society to hire a Wikipedian! The job description is here and the person chosen is Johnbod - a rather long-term Wikipedian from the UK. Thought you might enjoy this. He'll be talking at Wikimania 2014, in London in August, with a bit of luck!"

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Boing Boing Charitable Giving Guide 2013

Here's a guide to the charities the Boingers support in our own annual giving. As always, please add the causes and charities you give to in the comments below!

Electronic Frontier Foundation
Could there be a year that's more relevant to the EFF? As Edward Snowden has made abundantly clear, there is a titantic, historic battle underway to determine whether the Internet is there to liberate us or to enslave us. EFF's on the right side of history, and I figure giving them all I can afford is a cheap hedge against the NSA's version of the future. —CD

Creative Commons
CC continues to make a difference -- this year, they released the 4.0 version of their flexible licenses, a major milestone. More than anyone else, CC has reframed the way we talk about creativity and copyright in the Internet era, providing practical, easy-to-use tools to make it possible for creators and audiences to work together in a shared mission of creating and enjoying culture.—CD

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Wikimedia sends legal threat to WikiPR over sockpuppetry and meatpuppetry

Wikimedia, the nonprofit that oversees the Wikipedia project, has sent a cease-and-desist letter to WikiPR, an astroturfing company that pays people to distort Wikipedia entries on behalf of clients who want to erase embarrassing history or boost their image (or both). WikiPR is thought to be behind hundreds of sockpuppet accounts that made thousands of edits over several years.

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Wikipedia editor count down by a third

Tom Simonite on "the decline of Wikipedia":
The volunteer workforce that built the project’s flagship, the English-language Wikipedia—and must defend it against vandalism, hoaxes, and manipulation—has shrunk by more than a third since 2007 and is still shrinking. ... The main source of those problems is not mysterious. The loose collective running the site today, estimated to be 90 percent male, operates a crushing bureaucracy with an often abrasive atmosphere that deters newcomers who might increase participation in Wikipedia and broaden its coverage.

Wikipedia fights massive sock-puppet army

Alan sez, "A 'sock puppet network' is a set of seemingly independent accounts on Wikipedia that act in concert because they are (or at least strongly appear to be) all controlled by the same entity. The accounts are sock puppets for the true entity, which uses the network to effect changes it wants on Wikipedia."

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What would it cost to continuously print out every edit to Wikipedia?

In a recent What If...?, XKCD's Randall Munroe tackles the important question: "If you had a printed version of the whole of (say, the English) Wikipedia, how many printers would you need in order to keep up with the changes made to the live version?" Turns out the answer is SIX, but it would cost $500,000 a month for the ink, and you'd need 300m^3 a month to store the paper.

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Jimmy Wales: Wikipedia won't surveil users for China

This year's annual Wikipedia conference, Wikimania, was held in Hong Kong, and Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales devoted some time in his speech and subsequent interviews to a discussion of the site's relationship to the Chinese authorities. Wikipedia is heavily censored by the Great Firewall, which blocks many queries and pages, and an encrypted, unfilterable version of Wikipedia is blocked altogether. Wales ruled out shutting down the unencrypted version for now, on technical grounds, but said that the site would never censor itself in response to government threats.

More significantly, Wales ruled out completely any participation in China's "real name" policy, which requires online services to track user activity and associate it with their real names, saying he would not comply with this, "not for five seconds."

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Cetacean needed: Wikipedia whale diagram needs line-art

The missing elements in the diagram on the Wikipedia page for List of cetaceans is missing some line-art of various whales and such. Where the art is missing, the box simply bears the legend "cetacean needed." (ObRef XKCD)

Nice work editor of … - missing diagrams labeled 'cetacean needed' @doctorow

How a Mexican drug-lord dines out

When Joaquín Guzmán Loera, leader of Mexico's notorious Sinaloa Cartel, wants to dine out, he engages some rather extreme security measures:

In 2005 on a Saturday evening, Guzmán reportedly strolled into a restaurant in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, with several of his bodyguards. After he took his seat, his henchmen locked the doors of the restaurant, collected the cell phones of approximately 30 diners and instructed them to not be alarmed.[26] The gangsters then ate their meal and left – paying for everyone else in the restaurant.[27]

Culiacán appearance

Later that year, Guzmán was reportedly seen in Culiacán, Sinaloa, repeating the same exploit at a restaurant.[28] According to a witness, in November 2005 Guzmán entered the restaurant in Culiacán with 15 of his bodyguards, all of them carrying AK-47s.[29] The restaurant was known as "Las Palmas", a lime-green eatery with an ersatz tile roof on a busy street.[30] A man in the restaurant told those present the following:

"Gentlemen, please. Give me a moment of your time. A man is going to come in, the boss. We will ask you to remain in your seats; the doors will be closed and nobody is allowed to leave. You will also not be allowed to use your cellulars. Do not worry; if you do everything that is asked of you, nothing will happen. Continue eating and don't ask for your check. The boss will pay. Thank you."[29]

Joaquín Guzmán Loera (via Reddit)

Realtime map of anonymous edits to Wikipedia

Stephen LaPorte and Mahmoud Hashemi's "Wikipedia Recent Changes Map" plots anonymous edits to Wikipedia on a world-map in realtime, based on the location of the user (only anonymous users are identified by IP address, so they're the only ones whose locations can be estimated). It's a hypnotic view into Wikipedia's casual users and vandals, as well as unobservant users like (I often forget that I'm logged out until after my edit, and have to go back and add an attribution).

When an unregistered user makes a contribution to Wikipedia, he or she is identified by his or her IP address. These IP addresses are translated to the contributor’s approximate geographic location. A study by Fabian Kaelin in 2011 noted that unregistered users make approximately 20% of the edits on English Wikipedia [edit: likely closer to 15%, according to more recent statistics], so Wikipedia’s stream of recent changes includes many other edits that are not shown on this map.

You may see some users add non-productive or disruptive content to Wikipedia. A survey in 2007 indicated that unregistered users are less likely to make productive edits to the encyclopedia. Do not fear: improper edits can be removed or corrected by other users, including you!

This map listens to live feeds of Wikipedia revisions, broadcast using wikimon. We built the map using a few nice libraries and services, including d3, DataMaps, and This project was inspired by WikipediaVision’s (almost) real-time edit visualization.

Wikipedia Recent Changes Map

"Citation needed"'s Wikipedia entry

Regrettably, the Wikipedia entry for "Citation needed" ("a common editorial remark on Wikipedia, which has become used to refer to Wikipedia in wider popular culture") doesn't include any actual assertions tagged with [citation needed].

On July 4, 2007, the webcomic xkcd published a comic which depicted a protestor holding up a "citation needed" sign during a political speech.[7]

In late 2010, banners with the template appeared at the somewhat tongue-in-cheek Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,[8] and in February 2011, at a more serious demonstration in Berlin against German defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who had been embroiled in a scandal after it was discovered he had plagiarised portions of his doctoral thesis.[9]

The New York Times has commented on the propensity of some "stickler editors" for adding the template to unattributed facts,[10] and has used the phrase in an online headline.[11]

Citation needed (via JWZ)

French spies demand removal of a Wikipedia entry, threaten random Wikipedia admin in France when they don't get their way

The French spy agency Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur inexplicably flipped out about a longstanding Wikipedia entry on a military base (station hertzienne militaire de Pierre sur Haute) filled with public domain, widely known information. They tried to get the Wikimedia Foundation to delete it, but wouldn't explain what, exactly, they objected to in the entry. When the Wikimedia Foundation rebuffed them, they picked out a random volunteer Wikipedia admin living in France -- a person who had never had anything to do with the post in question -- and threatened him with jail unless he used his admin privileges to delete the post.

The Foundation is trying to support the their volunteer as best as they can. Meantime, the post about station hertzienne militaire de Pierre sur Haute's pageviews have shot from a couple per day to 9000+.

The Foundation takes allegations of national security threats seriously and investigated the matter accordingly. However, it was not readily apparent what specific information the DCRI could consider classified or otherwise high-risk. Without further information, we could not understand why the DCRI believes information in the article is classified. Almost all of the information in the article is cited to publicly-available sources. In fact, the article’s contents are largely consistent with a publicly available video in which Major Jeansac, the chief of the military station in question, gives a detailed interview and tour of the station to a reporter. This video is now cited in the article. Furthermore, the page was originally created on July 24, 2009 and has been continually available and edited since. We do not know why the DCRI believes that the article has suddenly become an urgent threat now.

We requested more information from the DCRI, such as which specific sentences or sections they believed to contain classified information. Unfortunately, the DCRI refused to provide any more specific detail and reaffirmed their demand that the entire article be deleted. Therefore, the Foundation was forced to refuse their request pending receipt of more information that we could use to fully evaluate their claim.

On 30 March 2013, we discovered that the DCRI, evidently dissatisfied with the Foundation’s response, contacted a volunteer with administrative rights (a “sysop”) who resides in France. This sysop is not responsible for the hosting of the content on Wikipedia, had no role in the creation of the article, and is not part of the Wikimedia Foundation. As we understand it, the sysop attempted to explain his limited role as a volunteer and directed them back to the Foundation’s legal department.

Legal and Community Advocacy/Statement on France

(Image: A general view of the military base of Pierre sur Haute, located in the Monts du Forez. It's a dependency of the Base Aerienne 942 of Lyon-Mont Verdun, GDL/CC BY-SA image by S. Rimbaud)

Group whose Wikipedia entry was deleted for non-notability threatens lawsuit against Wikipedian who participated in the discussion

Benjamin Mako Hill writes, "Last year, I participated in a discussion on Wikipedia that led to the deletion of an article about the "Institute for Cultural Diplomacy." Because I edit Wikipedia using my real name, the ICD was able to track me down. Over the last month or so, they threated me with legal action and have now gotten their lawyers involved. I've documented the whole sad saga on my blog. I think the issue raises some important concerns about Wikipedia in general."

Donfried has made it very clear that his organization really wants a Wikipedia article and that they believe they are being damaged without one. But the fact that he wants one doesn’t mean that Wikipedia’s policies mean he should have one. Anonymous editors in Berlin and in unknown locations have made it clear that they really want a Wikipedia article about the ICD that does not include criticism. Not only do Wikipedia’s policies and principles not guarantee them this, Wikipedia might be hurt as a project when this happens.

The ICD claims to want to foster open dialogue and criticism. I think they sound like a pretty nice group working toward issues I care about personally. I wish them success.

But there seems to be a disconnect between their goals and the actions of both their leader and proponents. Because I used my real name and was skeptical about the organization on discussion pages on Wikipedia, I was tracked down and threatened. Donfried insinuated that I was motivated to “sabotage” his organization and threatened legal action if I do not answer his questions. The timing of his first letter — the day after the ICD page was recreated — means that I was unwilling to act on my commitment to Wikipedia and its policies.

The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy and Wikipedia

Wikipedia and libraries: a match made in heaven

John Mark Ockerbloom's "From Wikipedia to our libraries" is a fabulous proposal for creating research synergies between libraries and Wikipedia, by adding templates to Wikipedia articles that direct readers to unique, offline-only (or onsite-only) library resources at their favorite local libraries. Ockerbloom's approach acknowledges and respects the fact that patrons start their searches online, and seeks only to improve the outcomes of their research -- not to convince them not to start with the Internet.

So how do we get people from Wikipedia articles to the related offerings of our local libraries? Essentially we need three things: First, we need ways to embed links in Wikipedia to the libraries that readers use. (We can’t reasonably add individual links from an article to each library out there, because there are too many of them– there has to be a way that each Wikipedia reader can get to their own favored libraries via the same links.) Second, we need ways to derive appropriate library concepts and local searches from the subjects of Wikipedia articles, so the links go somewhere useful. Finally, we need good summaries of the resources a reader’s library makes available on those concepts, so the links end up showing something useful. With all of these in place, it should be possible for researchers to get from a Wikipedia article on a topic straight to a guide to their local library’s offerings on that topic in a single click.

I’ve developed some tools to enable these one-click Wikipedia -> library transitions. For the first thing we need, I’ve created a set of Wikipedia templates for adding library links. The documentation for the Library resources box template, for instance, describes how to use it to create a sidebar box with links to resources about (or by) the topic of a Wikipedia article in a reader’s library, or in another library a reader might want to consult. (There’s also an option for direct links to my Online Books Page, if there are relevant books online; it may be easier in some cases for readers to access those than to access their local library’s books.)

From Wikipedia to our libraries (via Making Light)

(Image: library card, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from raqkat's photostream)