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Volume 3, Issue 1 2 January 2007 About the Signpost

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Effort to modify fair use policy aborted Esperanza organization disbanded after deletion discussion
WikiWorld comic: "Thagomizer" News and notes: Fundraiser continues, milestones
Wikipedia in the News Features and admins
Bugs, Repairs, and Internal Operational News The Report on Lengthy Litigation

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Effort to modify fair use policy aborted

A campaign to modify Wikipedia's fair use policy failed to loosen the guidelines for handling publicity photos of living people, as Jimbo Wales intervened to cut short a vote on the matter.

The vote covered the following proposed addition to the fair use policy: "Copyrighted promotional photographs of living people (including bands) may be used in articles about those people if no free alternative photograph is available and the photograph complies with all other fair use criteria. When a free image becomes available it should replace the copyrighted promotional photograph as explained by the first dot point."

The current policy, listing various criteria that "non-free" material should meet, states as its first point that "No free equivalent is available or could be created that would adequately give the same information." The proposal apparently was intended to allow use of publicity shots and similar material. Its focus on living people reflects the fact that for deceased persons, the possibility of creating a freely licensed equivalent has already been lost.

Images of this type have been a subject of some uncertainty in the effort to clarify what content can be used on Wikipedia. Contributors wanting to use them typically argue that having been released by the owners specifically to represent their subjects or their work, the images almost automatically qualify as fair use on Wikipedia as the substitute free image, even if available, is less likely to convey the information to the reader equally adequately and the rightsholders are unlikely to object. At the same time, however, requesting that the image be released under a free license tends to be a fruitless exercise. This causes concern among other contributors who object to over-reliance on fair use in a project billed as a "free encyclopedia". Critics of the proposal also contend that the presence of such images on Wikipedia is a strong disincentive to photographers who might be willing to secure replacement images and release them under a free license.

Some promotional photos have existed on Wikipedia at various points, often for extended periods of time, whether or not this corresponded with Wikipedia policy at that moment. Supporters of the proposal also raised concerns about the hoped-for replacement photos, arguing that these would likely not have the subject's approval. (Since the debate tends to revolve around subjects with varying degrees of celebrity, a possible response to this might be that use is defensible because the person is a public figure.)

After the deletion of some promotional photos, a group of editors began discussing a response in November at Wikipedia:Elimination of Fair Use Rationale in Promotional Photos. After several weeks of inconclusive discussion, an effort to vote on the issue was started by Cedars on 22 December. This lasted for a few days, with a small majority (out of fewer than 100 votes) favoring the proposal, until it was shut down by Jimbo Wales on 26 December. Agreeing with a point made by several other participants, Wales stated, "We do not vote on issues in this manner."


Esperanza organization disbanded after deletion discussion

Esperanza, a Wikipedia community organization formed in August 2005, was declared 'inactive' this week, after a deletion discussion on the organization. The discussion, which followed a prior discussion in November, attracted 600 edits and over 200 users.

In the nomination, made on Thursday, Dev920 noted that despite reform proposals introduced after the first discussion, "as I had predicted, the momentum of change died and many of the overhaul discussions have been effectively abandoned without ever reaching a consensus. Little reform of the kind promised at the MfD has happened, and now seems unlikely to, with many members of Esperanza now having left." She further noted the bureaucracy of the organization:

Discussion has since now intensively focused on the creation of the new charter. This brings up another impetus for my nomination for deletion: Esperanza is thoroughly unwikipedian in its desire for endless bureaucracy. At the time of the MfD, Esperanza has a seven member council who held closed meetings on IRC that made binding decisions about Esperanza. Any contentious decision was to be passed up to them. There was no consensus building, no discussion, nothing. This has been a problem from Esperanza’s founding, and it seems to be a intrinsic part of Esperanza that cannot be removed. When these points were raised in the overhaul, it was repeated over and over again by virtually every Esperanzan that they needed the leadership, that bureaucracy was needed and that Esperanza would collapse into a mess without it. ... One person even said "I just believe that we cannot all decide policies, we need leadership."[1]

Dev920 also attempted to rebut the common objection from the first MfD discussion, that Esperanza's programs made it worthy of inclusion:

Several users have pointed out that Esperanza has useful programs, like Collaboration of the Month. To quote Quadell, "The Esperanza CotM is a marginally good thing, I suppose, but it's the only collaboration type that is defined by who edits the article, not by what article is about, and I don't see that as a good precedent." The same goes for the Esperanza barnstar, only awarded to good Esperanzans. This simply sets the Esperanzan community further apart from the rest of us, for no reason. It works by who people are, not what they do, which goes utterly against Wikipedia’s principles. The Tutorial drive is creating and keeping helpful information that would be easier to find if it were placed in the Help articles for the rest of us. This highlights a perennial and worrying problem about Esperanza: that they constantly set themselves apart. They say they give Wikipedians hope – but who has any interaction with Esperanza who isn’t Esperanzan? ... Esperanzans, at least the active ones, see themselves as Esperanzans first and foremost. We have to delete Esperanza for their own good, to show them what Wikipedia is like outside the wall of their sub-culture.[1]

The discussion attracted a flurry of editors, and generated 313 kilobytes of discussion on the MFD and its talk page. Among those who believed the organization should be kept were Ikiroid:

I agree with the central reason of this MFD, which condemns the cabalistic attitude of having a members-only club on Wikipedia. It is frusterating to see so many beliefs that this program is out to perfect or destroy wikipedia. There is nothing in Esperanza which could possibly destroy wikipedia. Some people in it have particularly aggressive attitudes toward it, but Esperanza is not built on anything malicious. ... I want to say that I really like what Esperanza has done, and I still like the idea, despite the thoughts put out here. There have been a lot of good ideas, like coaching, support, and recognition programs which reinforce the community. In my mind, the only reason these programs were really that lacking was because we didn't expand them beyond the members. If anything, us members should be the ones managing these programs, and we should reach out and help those who deserve it but haven't specifically asked it. It will be quite a loss when esperanza disappears because it has done a lot of good for people.[2]

and Yuser31415:

Esperanza is a collaboration to help and motivate users. Their goal, to make Wikipedia a friendly and helpful place, is not impossible, simply hard to reach and forever growing. While it will never be gained, their one small effort works wonders for our encyclopedia, which is essentially community-based. Without wishing to discount the nominator(s) for their reasons for requesting deletion, I do think Wikipedia seriously needs a group of editors whose goal is to promote harmonious editing and community. In an ideal world, both Wiki and real, if everyone was warm and helpful to other users, there would be no use for Esperanza.[3]

The debate weighed overwhelmingly toward closing the organization, with many current and former members and leaders endorsing its end; however, much of the debate was about how the closure should take place. While some favored outright deletion of all Esperanza pages, others felt that simply marking the organization as inactive was enough. A compromise that gained steam was the "Messedrocker solution" (named after its creator, Messedrocker), to redirect the subpages to the main page, but keep the pages for their edit history. The discussion was closed on Monday, 1 January, by Mailer Diablo. The decision was made to close the organization, and replace the organization's main page with an explanation of the organization's history and demise, while retaining most of its pages per the Messedrocker solution. In his closure, Mailer Diablo wrote:

The result of the debate was to decentralize Esperanza. I see this as the only viable way to minimize the pain between all parties involved, and understanding that this MfD will have wider, serious implications for other similiar organisations in future. What do I mean by decentralization? The one main concern brought up in this MfD is the membership, the structure of this organisation. Its programs are good-intentioned, and they are supposed to be avaliable to any editor on Wikipedia. This is also the cause of the perceived "better than thou" and "cabalism" claimed by members, and the lack of consensus building. This means as from now, the membership, council and associated pages are to immediately go. They will be salted. This is a warning to all editors that existing projects must be open and transparent to all editors at all times, not to be overly hierarchical lest they are to meet a similiar fate as Esperanza.

All programs will be migrated to its associated projects and shall be open to every editor on Wikipedia. The existing program pages should be redirected to its new project page rather than Esperanza itself. ... They are allowed to survive in their new forms and may be MfD-ed seperately if nessecary. Messedrocker Solution will be applied to the rest of the pages; deletion not required. Esperanza is too big to be deleted without leaving many red-links and making newcomers wonder. A new essay page describing its history, philosophy and its fate is to replace the existing main Esperanza page. Its talkpage and archives should be clearly marked that its subsequent discussion is only about the essay only. I do not expect the organisation to revive, but hopefully this result will be something that is progressive and less controversial.[4]

The organization was founded in August 2005 by JCarriker, who has since expressed his opinion that Esperanza had 'failed', due to incivility within its membership as well as within Wikipedia as a whole.[5] He noted that "Wikipedia can easily survive without Esperanza, but it cannot survive without civility and the sense of community cooperation that the building of this encyclopedia is founded on." This lack of civility was part of the reason behind the organization's creation. (see archived story). Even early in Esperanza's history, there were worries about the organization's bureaucracy. Gadfium noted, "I think this is a bad idea. Wikipedia does not need a cabal." In response, a message was posted on the Esperanza page: "One of the most brought up reasons for not joining Esperanza is that there's too much bureaucracy. Please note that most of the government things are for fun- it's not really a true authority."[6] After internal struggles, and continued questions over the group's intended goals, it was nominated for deletion in November 2006; while the discussion was closed by Kim Bruning as "no consensus", members of Esperanza began examining the group's projects. Some, including the coffee lounge, and the user page award, were deleted during this time in other deletion discussions.[7] After the reforms planned for the organization were not implemented, the second MfD was instituted last week.

Esperanza did have some positive contributions; pages split from Esperanza to their own project pages included administrator coaching, stress alerts, and reach out. The calendar of birthdays and other events was merged to the Birthday Committee, and the Esperanza Collaboration of the Week was simply superseded by the existing Article Creation and Improvement Drive. All other programs have been disbanded, along with the organization itself.


  1. ^ a b Nomination by Dev920, 28 December, 2006.
  2. ^ Comment by Ikiroid, 28 December, 2006.
  3. ^ Comment by Yuser31415, 29 December, 2006.
  4. ^ MfD closure by Mailer Diablo, 1 January, 2007.
  5. ^ Comment by JCarriker, 29 December, 2006
  6. ^ Flcelloguy. "New group aims to promote Wiki-Love", Wikipedia Signpost, 19 September, 2005.
  7. ^ Coffee lounge MfD, user page award MfD. The latter was moved to userspace.


WikiWorld comic: "Thagomizer"

WikiWorld is a weekly comic, carried by the Signpost, that highlights a few of the fascinating but little-known articles in the vast Wikipedia archives. The text for each comic is excerpted from one or more existing Wikipedia articles. WikiWorld offers visual interpretations on a wide range of topics: offbeat cultural references and personality profiles, obscure moments in history and unlikely slices of everyday life - as well as "mainstream" subjects with humorous potential.

Cartoonist Greg Williams developed the WikiWorld project in cooperation with the Wikimedia Foundation, and is releasing the comics under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 license for use on Wikipedia and elsewhere. Williams works as a visual journalist for the US-based The Tampa Tribune, a daily newspaper in Tampa, Florida. He also has worked as an illustrator and designer at newspapers in Dubuque, Iowa, and Dayton, Ohio.

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News and notes

Wikimedia Foundation fundraiser continues

The three-week Wikimedia Foundation fundraiser continued this week, and will close on Saturday. As of press time, the fundraiser had raised over US$840,000. Notably, a matching funds donation of $286,800, from an anonymous donor, was received on Wednesday [1]. Other large donations during the drive included $2,000 donations by Ali Webster, Francis Hogle, and Gary Frisch, a $2,350 donation by Chien, a $4,096 donation by Jeff Moe, $5,000 donations by the Burt and Diana Cutler Family Foundation, Craigslist, Graphics Press LLC, and The Sims/Maes Foundation Inc, and a $25,000 donation by Two Sigma Investments, LLC, as well as various other anonymous donations.

In a related story, a controversial Virgin Unite logo included in the sitenotice at the top of all pages raised concerns over whether the logo could be construed as an advertisement. This logo, which appeared on the site during the 24 hours that Virgin Unite, the non-profit organization of Virgin Group, was matching donor contributions, was criticized for its similarity to the Virgin Group's logo, and as such, users worried that such an image would constitute an advertisement. The discussion led to a question about whether controlled advertisements might be appropriate in some cases, to handle the large amount of money required to keep the Foundation running. Some community members announced their intention to leave the project over this issue. Full discussion on the issue can be found on the mailing lists: (December 2006, January 2007)

Appreciation Week planning

In honor of Wikipedia Day on 15 January, Badbilltucker has proposed an Appreciation Week to thank editors and WikiProjects for their service to the project. Planning continues on whether an event will occur.



Wikipedia in the news

IP Vandalism affects an entire country

When AntiVandalBot reverted a page blanking by IP and an administrator blocked the IP for a month, a Slashdot post "Wikipedia Blocks Qatar" started a mini-media circus. With headlines like (chronologically): Wikipedia denies banning Qatar (The Inquirer), Wikipedia Bans Qatar Users Due To Net Vandalism (All Headline News), Wikipedia edit blackout for Qatar (CNET), and Wikipedia Qatar ban 'temporary' (BBC News) reporting on the event was spotty. Jimmy Wales took the unusual step of personally calling the story "completely false." Additionally, Wales posted (later clarified) that he would give his cell number and respond 24 hours a day to email from reporters asking for information on the incident.

Because Qatar has only one Internet service provider, Qtel, for the entire country, the block to the IP address for its proxy server may have affected many users. Nearly 200 edits were made from the IP in December, although it does not have a long contribution history as the proxy server occasionally changes address. Originally the block prevented account creation but this was relaxed shortly after the Slashdot article was posted. Some users continued to post from Qatar as Qtel's mobile service uses a different proxy server and only anonymous users were blocked.

Wikipedia covers Saddam's execution

Red Herring has a short article about Wikipedia's coverage of Saddam Hussein's execution. "For more than a century this was the deal: newspapers wrote the first draft of history, and the encyclopedias put it all in perspective a few years later. Not anymore. Within minutes of former Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein’s execution ... [Wikipedia] had more than 700 words worth of details..."

Wikipedia called not authoritative

Reader's Representative for the Kansas City Star, Derek Donovan, in an article titled "Wikipedia is hardly authoritative on any subject", expresses frustration with readers referencing Wikipedia as proof of assertions of error in the newspaper. Without addressing whether the asserted proof was indeed false, Donovan complaints include: "unceasing flow of vandalism," "plagiarism," "edit wars," "lack of intellectual proportion." He closes with a request that "Wikipedians, please spare me the angry e-mail."

Internet incivility

The New York Times, in an article titled "Try to Play Nice, Wicked Wide Web", includes Wikipedia in a list of sites with user created content that are susceptible to "conversation[s] descending into the muck." Labeling the interactions "New Nastiness", the article reports that the insults "may be no different from the incivility people can show each other in everyday life ... [but] it may be that anonymity online removes whatever self-control they might have exhibited when confronting their subjects in person."

Edit wars on medical articles

Medical blog, Clinical Cases and Images, discusses Wikipedia's medical entries. After noting that "Wikipedia ... may become the most comprehensive medical textbook," the article outlines a few disagreements between doctors and administrators. The article notes the importance of keeping vandals and promotions out, but warns "If you make contributing too difficult though, 'regular guys' may just go somewhere else."

Other news

Continuing coverage

Media outlets continued to cover the following stories:


Features and admins


Four users were granted admin status via the Requests for Adminship process this week: GRBerry (nom), Jc37 (nom), Asterion (nom), and Savidan (nom).

Featured content

Ten articles were promoted to featured status last week: Scouting, The Simpsons, Flag of Lithuania, Tropical Storm Edouard (2002), Áedán mac Gabráin, Effects of Hurricane Isabel in North Carolina, Serial Experiments Lain, El Greco, Latter Days, and Only Fools and Horses.

Four articles were de-featured last week: Floppy disk, Julia Stiles, United States House of Representatives, and Space opera in Scientology doctrine.

Both one list and one portal were promoted to featured status last week: List of mammals of Korea and Portal:Philosophy of science.

The following featured articles were displayed last week on the Main Page as Today's featured article: Mount Tambora, Sylvanus Morley, Salsa music, Redshift, Kroger Babb, Maraba Coffee, Influenza, and Arthur Ernest Percival.

The following featured pictures were displayed last week on the Main Page as picture of the day: Fushimi Inari-taisha, Solar eclipse of August 11 1999, Takeoff of F/A-18 Hornet, Pine cones, B-1 Lancer, Anole lizard, Pollination, and Lincoln cent.

Ten pictures were promoted to featured status last week:


Bugs, Repairs, and Internal Operational News

The default sort key of a page for categories can be changed using the new {{DEFAULTSORT}} magic word. For instance, on George Washington, {{DEFAULTSORT:Washington, George}} would cause a subsequent [[Category:United States presidents]] to be equivalent to [[Category:United States presidents|Washington, George]], not [[Category:United States presidents|George Washington]]. This is especially useful when the article belongs in many categories.(Rob Church, bug 5908, r18629)

A bug that caused incorrect display of autosummaries containing line breaks for IRC recent-changes bots was fixed. (Simetrical, bug 8304, r18500)

A bug that could cause incorrect display of the logo on right-to-left wikis that had customized the sidebar was fixed. (Brion Vibber, bug 8427, r18646)

The table-sorting script was upgraded to an improved version and adjusted somewhat. In particular, this eliminates two bugs: if a cell in the first row of the table contains whitespace, that does not force the rest of the column to sort alphabetically; and percentages now sort numerically. (Joost de Valk and Simetrical, bugs 8154 and 8155, r18775)

A few interface changes were made:

Some updates were made to non-English messages, specifically:

Internationalization help is always appreciated! See m:Localization statistics for how complete the translations of languages you know are, and post any updates to Mediazilla.


The Report On Lengthy Litigation

The Arbitration Committee opened two cases this week, and closed three cases.

Closed cases

  • Sex tourism: A case involving a revert war on the Sex tourism article. As a result of the case, Kyndfellow was banned from editing the article and placed on probation.
  • Iran-Iraq War: A case referred by the mediation committee regarding a dispute on the Iran-Iraq War page. This case was dismissed for lack of evidence on the motion of Fred Bauder, the first case to be so dismissed recently.

New cases

  • Piotrus-Ghirla: A case involving the actions of Piotrus and Ghirla on various Russia- and Poland-related articles. Piotrus alleges that Ghirla has added unsourced POV material to these articles, and generally been incivil, while Ghirla claims that Piotrus has engaged in various forms of harrassment, and calls for his desysopping. However, the parties have now entered into informal mediation, with proposals including mutual civility parole (and in which Ghirla has dropped his call for desysopping), and as a result of this, a motion has been proposed temporarily deferring the case until the outcome of the mediation is known.

Evidence phase

  • Derek Smart: A case involving a dispute over the inclusion of critical material in the Derek Smart article. Various editors on both sides of the dispute claim that the other has violated policy in promoting their case, and some suggest that various accounts (Supreme Cmdr and WarHawkSP inter alia) are in fact used by Smart himself, citing as evidence perceived similarities in their writing styles. These editors deny the allegations.
  • Starwood: A case involving links to Starwood Festival-related articles from various pages. Paul Pigman, who brought the case, alleges that Rosencomet "persistently and systematically" added these links, perhaps to an extent that violates WP:SPAM, and that Hanuman Das, Ekajati and 999 have harassed users attempting to remove the links. Mattisse confirms that she has been harassed by Hanuman Das, Ekajati and 999, but that she has no issue of harassment with Rosencomet himself. Hanuman Das has asked that his name be removed from the request, as "I decline to participate", citing that he has not edited the links since he agreed not to on the 5th of December. Although Arbitration is not a consensual process, he also seems to have exercised the right to vanish. 999 and Ekajati deny the allegations, and allege that Mattisse has used multiple sockpuppets to request the links and then call for their removal. In addition, various users allege that Rosencomet has a WP:COI, as the executive director of the for-profit ACE LLC, which promotes the festival.
  • Robert Prechter: A case regarding the behaviour of Rgfolsom and Smallbones on the Socionomics and Robert Prechter pages. Rgfolsom alleges that Smallbones has violated WP:NPOV, WP:CIVIL and WP:DR (by abusing the mediation process), and that he has added "smears, demonstrable falsehoods, and a calculated overemphasis on quotes of critics". In response, Smallbones alleges that Rgfolsom has violated WP:V and WP:NPOV by removing claims critical of Prechter, and adding claims complimentary to him, and WP:COI because he is one of Prechter's employees.
  • Husnock: A case involving the actions of Husnock and Morwen, involving a comment made by Husnock, "I would be careful telling a deployed member of the military they shouldn't edit on Wikipedia for whatever reason.", following disputes on various Star Trek-related AfDs, which Morwen considered to be "intimidating", and Husnock alleges that she stated that she was "in fear of her life", and that he has been investigated by real-world bodies regarding it.
  • Yoshiaki Omura: Various users, principally Crum375, allege that Richardmalter and alleged sockpuppets have added biased, unsourced material to Bi-Digital O-Ring Test, an alternative medicine technique created by Yoshiaki Omura which was criticised by a New Zealand disciplinary tribunal as lacking scientific basis. However, Richardmalter denies that his pro-Omura edits were either biased or unsourced and claims that the mediation process has supported his position.
  • Midnight Syndicate: A case brought by Durova involving an edit war on the Midnight Syndicate article. Dionyseus and Skinny McGee allege that GuardianZ has engaged in sockpuppetry and general disruption on the article. He denies the allegations and argues that Dionyseus and Skinny McGee have engaged in similar behaviour. A temporary injunction has been granted placing Dionyseus, Skinny McGee, and GuardianZ on revert parole.

Voting phase

  • Naming Conventions: A case regarding a dispute over whether articles without alternative meanings should be disambiguated for the sake of clarity - for example, Never Kill a Boy on the First Date (Buffy episode). While about 80% of involved editors said in a straw poll that it should not be disambiguated, both sides allege that editors on the other have behaved disruptively. Fred Bauder has proposed a principle stating that appeals to the Arbitration Committee as a method to determine consensus in a policy dispute is not generally viable, due to the press of work as well as other considerations, and a remedy stating that no penalties are to be imposed in respect of past actions in the dispute, but has proposed an enforcement motion stating that editors who violate the consensus decision in the matter may be briefly blocked.
  • Brahma Kumaris: A case involving the actions of avyakt7 and (.244) on the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University article. Avyakt alleges that .244 has defamed Brahma Kumaris in the article but .244 claims that avyakt has misinterpreted the reliable sources policy. Fred Bauder has proposed remedies banning .244 for one year, placing him on probation, and placing the article on article probation. These proposals have been supported by James Forrester.

Motion to close

  • Deltabeignet: SebastianHelm suggests that Deltabeignet's account may have been hijacked due to some edits which he felt were revertions to vandalism. In a somewhat bizarre statement, Deltabeignet denies that he has been hijacked by a vandal but admits that he has violated WP:POINT in an "experiment" to determine possible prejudice towards edits from IPs and offers to request desysopping "if the community wills it". In a manner which is unprecedented to my knowledge, Dmcdevit has proposed a motion to close with absolutely no other motions whatsoever, following an informal agreement with Deltabeignet, where he agreed for his IP to be softbanned.