Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/Single

The Signpost
Single-page Edition
WP:POST/1
1 August 2022
Eyewitness Wikimedian – Vinnytsia, Ukraine
War diary (part 3)
Deletion report
This is Gonzo Country
 


Here is the deal: it's pretty good at what it does.
J

There are a few terms that have been thrown around a lot lately: AI, DL, NN, ML, NLP, and more. While a precise definition of all these terms would take multiple paragraphs, the thing they have in common is that a computer is doing some stuff.

For anyone who is not familiar with this alphabet soup, I've written a fairly comprehensive overview of the field's origins and history, as well as an explanation of the technologies involved, here, and ask forgiveness for starting the explanation of a 2019 software release in 1951.

In recent years, the field of machine learning has advanced at a pace which is, depending on who you ask, somewhere between "astounding", "terrifying", "overhyped" and "revolutionary". For example, GPT (2018) was a mildly interesting research tool, GPT-2 (2019) could write human-level text but was barely capable of staying on topic for more than a couple paragraphs, and GPT-3 (2020–22) wrote this month's arbitration report (a full explanation of what I did, how I did it, and responses to the most obvious questions can be found below).

The generative pre-trained transformers (this is what "GPT" stands for) are a family of large language models developed by OpenAI, similar to BERT and XLnet. Perhaps as a testament to the rapidity of developments in the field, even Wikipedia (famous for articles written within minutes of speeches being made and explosions being heard) currently has a redlink for large language models. Much ink has already been spilled on claims of GPTs' sentience, bias, and potential. It's obvious that a computer program capable of writing on the level of humans would have enormous implications for the corporate, academic, journalistic, and literary world. While there are certainly some unrealistically hyped-up claims, it's hard to overstate how much these things are capable of, despite their constraints.

The reports

Placeholder alt text
"I see that Wikipedia has finally found a use for my old law books."[1]

With that said, there are basically two options here.

  • The first is for me to keep droning on about how these models are a big deal, in a boring wall of text that makes increasingly outlandish and far-fetched claims about their capabilities.
  • The second is to show you what I am talking about.

I have opted for the second. In this issue, two articles have been written by an AI model called GPT-3: the deletion report and the arbitration report.

For the deletion report, GPT-3 was prompted with a transcript of each discussion in the report, and instructed to write a summary of it in the style of deceased Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. This produced a mixture of insightful, incisive, and derisive commentary. GPT-Thompson proved quite capable of accurately summarizing the slings and arrows of every discussion in the report – even though it specifically covers the longest and most convoluted AfDs. "Ukrainian Insurgent Army war against Russian occupation", for example, was a whopping 126,000 bytes (and needed to be processed in several segments) but the description was accurate.[2]

For each discussion in the report, I provided a full transcript of the AfD page (with timestamps and long signatures truncated to aid processing), and prompted GPT-3 for a completion, using some variation on the following:

"The following text is a summary of the above discussion, written by Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson for Rolling Stone's monthly feature on Wikipedia deletion processes."

Despite being ostensibly written in Thompson's style, these were generally quite straightforward summaries that covered the arguments made during each discussion, with hardly any profanity.[3]

Afterwards, I provided the summary itself as a prompt, and asked GPT-Thompson for an "acerbic quip" on each. Unlike the "summary" prompts (in which GPT-Thompson only occasionally chose to accompany his commentary with unprintable calumny and scathing political rants), the "acerbic quip" prompts solely produced output ranging from obscene and irreverent to maliciously slanderous.[4] Notably, this behavior is identical to what Hunter S. Thompson habitually did in real life, and part of why many editors allegedly loathed working with him. Personally, I didn't mind sifting through the diatribes (some of them were quite entertaining), but having to run each prompt several times to get something usable did make it fairly expensive.

For the arbitration report, GPT-3 was instructed to write a summary of each page in the style of deceased United States Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. This produced surprisingly insightful commentary; Justice GPT-Holmes proved able to summarize minute details of proceedings, including some things I'd missed while originally reading them. In general, he was more well-behaved (and less prone to obscene tirades) than GPT-Thompson, although he did have a tendency for long-winded digressions, and would often quote entire paragraphs from the source text.[5]

Similar to the deletion report, input consisted of brief prologues (e.g. "The following is a verbatim transcript of the findings of fact in a Wikipedia arbitration request titled 'WikiProject Tropical Cyclones'"). This was followed by the transcript of the relevant pages (whether they were the main case page, arbitration noticeboard posting, preliminary statements, arbitrator statements, or findings of fact and remedies). Afterwards, a prompt was given for a summary, of the following general form:

The following text is an article written by United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, summarizing the findings of fact and remedies, and their broader implications for the English Wikipedia's jurisprudence.[6]

Image generation

We all remember those weird DeepDream images where the sky got turned into dogs. This is a little different.

In addition to text completion, transformers (in conjunction with other technologies) have proven themselves quite capable of image generation. The first of these, broadly speaking, was DALL-E, announced by OpenAI in January 2021. Since then, a number of services have become available, which use a variety of architectures to generate images from natural-language prompts (i.e. a prompt phrased in normal language like "a dog eating the Empire State Building", rather than a procedurally defined set of attributes and subjects written in a specialized description language). Among these are Craiyon (formerly known as "DALL-E Mini", despite having no relation to DALL-E) and Midjourney. For this issue, I used both of these services to generate illustrations for our articles: some came out very impressively, and some came out a little goofy. It was definitely surprising to see it have a coherent response for the prompt "Technoblade's avatar" that actually looked like it – I guess this is what happens when the training set is massive. Anyway, you can see a bunch of these on the issue page. For a comparison between the three models I found usable, see the embedded images above.

DALL-E 2 creates much higher-quality images than what I used, but there's a waitlist for access, and it didn't end up happening by press time (although I did get my friend to generate me one). For a comparison, see below; both were prompted from the string "Teddy bears working on new AI research underwater with 1990s technology".

While some concerns have been raised about the intellectual property implications of images generated by such models, the determination has been made (at least on Commons) that they're ineligible for copyright due to being the output of a computer algorithm. With respect to moral rights, the idea is generally that they're ripping off human artists because they were trained on a bunch of images from the Internet, including copyrighted ones. However, it's not clear (at least to me) in what way this process differs from the same being done by human artists. As far as I can tell, this is the way that humans have created art for the last several tens of thousands of years – as far as I can tell, Billie Eilish does not get DMCA claims from the Beatles for writing pop music, and Peter Paul Rubens didn't get in trouble with the Lascaux cavemen (even when he painted obviously derivative works).

Obvious questions

This is a joke, right?
No. I really did have GPT-3 write these articles. I can show you screenshots of my account on the OpenAI website if you want. Copyediting was minimal, and consisted mostly of reordering entries and removing irrelevant asides.
So you just pushed a button and the whole thing popped out?
Not exactly. I organized the layout of each article, determined what sections would go where, and had GPT-3 write the body text of each section according to specific prompts (as described above). It was also necessary to format the model's output in MediaWiki markup. Although GPT-3 is more than capable of writing code (including wikitext), I didn't want to overwhelm it by asking it to do too much stuff at the same time, as this tends to degrade quality.
This is obviously cherry-picked – you didn't just publish the direct output of the model.
Well, we don't do that for human writers, either. I don't even do that for myself – typically, by the time I flag my own stuff to be copyedited, I have gone through multiple stages of writing, rewriting, editing, adding notes for clarification, and deleting unnecessary content.
How do you know it's not completely full of crap?
I don't – every claim that it made was individually fact-checked (we do this for human writers, too). The overwhelming majority were correct, and in the rare cases where it got something wrong, it could be fixed by asking it to complete the prompt again.
Why not just write the articles yourself at that point?
Even accounting for the time spent verifying claims, it was still generally faster than writing the articles myself, as it was capable of structuring full paragraphs of text in seconds. It was sometimes time-consuming to re-prompt it when it would write something incorrect or useless, but there is a sort of art to writing prompts in a way that causes useful answers to be generated, which gradually became easier to do as time went on. For example, replacing "The following is a summary of the discussion" with "The following is a rigorously accurate summary of the discussion" (yes, this really works).[7]
So it is a worse version of a human writer?
In terms of typographical errors, it was far better: I don't remember it making a single misspelling. The few grammatical errors it made were minor, and not objectively incorrect (e.g. saying "other editors argue" instead of "other editors argued" for a discussion that the prompt said had already been closed – this is not even really an error per se).
I heard language models were racist.
Language models like GPT-3 predict the most likely completion for a given input sequence, based on its training corpus, which is a very broad spectrum of text from the Internet (ranging from old books to forum arguments to furry roleplay). If its prompt is the phrase "I think the French are bastards because", you will probably end up with a bunch of text about how the French are bastards, similar to if you typed that into a search engine. In this particular instance, I did not observe GPT-3 saying anything prejudiced. This may be due to the people I prompted it to emulate;[8] presumably, if I had told it to write in the style of Adolf Hitler, I would have gotten some nasty stuff. My solution to this was to not do that.
How much did this whole gimmick cost?
Since I signed up for the GPT-3 beta, I have used it for things other than Signpost writing, so it's hard to tell precisely how much compute went towards these articles. However, the total cost of all the API requests I've made so far is 48.12 USD.
Damn!!
Large language models are notorious for requiring massive amounts of processing power. I still think it's a bargain: imagine how much it would cost to actually hire Hunter S. Thompson and Oliver Wendell Holmes after you adjusted for inflation.

Notes

  1. ^ This image was generated by DALL-E 2. The caption was also written by GPT-3, in response to a prompt asking it for New Yorker-style captions for cartoons about Oliver Wendell Holmes being resurrected to write for the Signpost.
  2. ^ All statements were individually fact-checked, per the "obvious questions" section.
  3. ^ One thing I couldn't help but notice was that some of the phrasing was quite similar to those I've used when writing previous deletion reports, like "Ultimately, the discussion resulted in a no consensus decision". My understanding is that GPT-3 included Wikipedia in its corpus, this version was trained in 2021, and as far as I can tell I am the only journalist who has ever written a monthly recap of the ten longest Wikipedia deletion discussions, so it's possible that when instructed to write an AfD report, it simply learned from the best (and/or only). On the other hand, it's also possible that there are just very few ways in which to describe the closure of an AfD, and this happens to be one of them. Who knows.
  4. ^ I would provide a highlights reel of these, but I was serious about the "unprintable" part – you'd be reading about it in the next arbitration report.
  5. ^ It's not entirely clear to me what causes this. While there are obviously differences between the writing styles of Gonzo journalism and Supreme Court opinions, there are also inherent differences in the format of AfD discussions (which are a bunch of people replying to each other directly) and ArbCom proceedings (which are a bunch of individual sections of highly procedural text). More research is needed on this front.
  6. ^ Sometimes, he would start adding his own recommendations, and I would have to append "Holmes is not himself an arbitrator." to the prompt.
  7. ^ Kojima, Takeshi; Shixiang Shane Gu; Reid, Machel; Matsuo, Yutaka; Iwasawa, Yusuke (2022). "Large Language Models are Zero-Shot Reasoners". arXiv:2205.11916 [cs.CL].
  8. ^ Thompson, Hunter S. (November 24, 2011). Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century. Penguin Books Limited. ISBN 9780241958735 – via Google Books. They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the American character. They are the racists and hate mongers among us [...] Fuck them.



Reader comments

A book wrapped in chains.
Wants to be free, but can it be?

WMF publishes Human Rights Impact Assessment

Article One Wikimedia Foundation July 2020 HRIA (English).pdf
Human Rights Impact Assessment (English)

On 12 July, the Wikimedia Foundation announced the publication of its Human Rights Impact Assessment.

What has been published is an edited, public version of a report originally submitted to the Wikimedia Foundation in July 2020 by Article One Advisors, an external consultancy. The public version was jointly edited by the WMF and Article One.

Article One's assessment came up with a number of "priority recommendations" in the following areas:

  • Strategies for the Foundation
  • Harmful content
  • Harassment
  • Government surveillance and censorship
  • Risk to child rights
  • Limitation on knowledge equity

Some of these recommendations have already been implemented over the past two years (e.g., Universal Code of Conduct, Human Rights Policy), while others have not. Some require community discussion.

Commenting on the two-year delay in publication as well as the progress made since the report was received, the WMF has said,

Unfortunately, due to capacity constraints and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, publication of this report has been significantly delayed. However, the Foundation has continued moving forward on important human rights work in the two years since the report was submitted. The Foundation has taken steps (more information below) to advance human rights work that aligned with existing organizational priorities, including some recommendations made in the human rights impact assessment.

The WMF has provided a status report on Meta, which is copied below:

Wikimedia HRIA Foreword + Executive Summary (Arabic).pdf
Wikimedia Foundation HRIA Foreword + Executive Summary (Arabic)
Wikimedia HRIA Foreword + Executive Summary Chinese (Traditional).pdf
Wikimedia Foundation HRIA Foreword + Executive Summary (Chinese (Traditional))
Wikimedia HRIA Foreword + Executive Summary (French).pdf
Wikimedia Foundation HRIA Foreword + Executive Summary (French)
Wikimedia HRIA Foreword + Executive Summary (Russian).pdf
Wikimedia Foundation HRIA Foreword + Executive Summary (Russian)
Wikimedia HRIA Foreword + Executive Summary (Spanish).pdf
Wikimedia Foundation HRIA Foreword + Executive Summary (Spanish)
Strategies for the Foundation
  1. Develop a standalone Human Rights Policy that commits to respecting all internationally recognized human rights by referencing the International Bill of Human Rights. Status: Complete
  2. Conduct ongoing human rights due diligence to continually assess risks to rightsholders. A Foundation-level HRIA should be conducted every three years or whenever significant changes could have an effect on human rights. Status: Ongoing
  3. Develop rights-compatible channels to address human rights concerns, including private channels, and ensure alignment with the UNGPs’ effectiveness criteria. Status: Complete
Harmful content
  1. Develop an audit protocol to assess projects that are at high risk of capture or government-sponsored disinformation. Status: Ongoing
  2. Develop a Content Oversight Committee (COC) to review content with a focus on bias and have the ability to make binding editorial decisions in line with ICCPR 19. Status: No action, community input needed
  3. Continue efforts outlined in the Knowledge Integrity white paper to develop: a) a machine-readable representation of knowledge that exists within Wikimedia projects along with its provenance; b) models to assess the quality of information provenance; and c) models to assess content neutrality and bias. Ensure that all AI/ML tools are designed to detect content and action that would be considered illegal under international human rights law, and that the response aligns with the three years or whenever significant changes could have an effect on human rights. Status: Ongoing
  4. Provide access to a geotargeted suicide prevention hotline at the top of the articles on Suicide Methods. Status: Ongoing
Harassment
  1. Develop and deploy training programs for admins and volunteers with advanced rights on detecting and responding to harassment claims. Status: Ongoing
  2. Commission a “social norms marketing” research project to assess what type of messaging is likely to reduce and prevent harassing comments and actions. Status: No action, community input needed
  3. Explore opportunities to rate the toxicity of users, helping to identify repeat offenders and patterns of harassment. Consider awards for projects with the lowest toxicity levels. Status: No action, community input needed
  4. Consider developing admin metrics focused on enforcing civility and applying the forthcoming Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC). Status: No action, community input needed
  5. Ensure that the (UCoC) and its accompanying governance mechanism is reviewed by human rights experts, including experts on free expression and incitement to violence. Status: Ongoing
Government surveillance and censorship
  1. Continue efforts underway as part of the IP-masking project to further protect users from public identification. Status: Ongoing
  2. Develop awareness-raising tools and programs for all volunteers to understand and mitigate risks of engagement. Tools should be made publicly available and should be translated into languages spoken by volunteers in higher risk regions. Status: Ongoing
Risks to child rights
  1. Conduct a child rights impact assessment of Wikimedia projects, including conducting interviews and focus groups with child contributors across the globe. Status: Ongoing
  2. Create child safeguarding tools, including child-friendly guidance on privacy settings, data collection, reporting of grooming attempts, the forthcoming UCoC as well a “Child’s Guide to Editing Wikimedia Project” to help advance the right of children to be civically engaged. Status: No action, pending full child rights impact assessment
Limitations on knowledge equity
  1. Support retention by developing peer support and mentoring for under-represented contributors. Status: Ongoing
  2. Engage stakeholders on how the “notability” requirement may be shifted to be more inclusive of oral histories, and to identify what definitions resonate with under-represented communities. Status: No action, community input needed
  3. Adapt Wikimedia projects to be more accessible via mobile phones. Status: Ongoing

This month, the WMF hosted a series of conversation hours on this topic:

The WMF has also invited questions and feedback on the discussion page on Meta-Wiki as well as through the Movement Strategy Forum. AK

Internet Archive files for summary judgement in relation to lawsuit

The Internet Archive preserves access to artifacts in digital form. Book citations on Wikipedia commonly link to versions on the Internet Archive. In 2020, four publishers sued the non-profit, alleging that the Controlled Digital Lending that the library takes part in violates their rights. Hachette, HarperCollins, Wiley, and Penguin Random House claim CDL has cost their companies millions of dollars and is a threat to their businesses. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), representing the Archive, filed a motion for summary judgement on July 7, requesting that a federal judge grant an end to the case. The EFF declined to comment on the implications for Wikipedia in an email. – E

Russian government escalates fight against Wikipedia, orders search engines to label Wikipedia as disinformation

Emblem of Roskomnadzor.png
Russian telecommunications agency Roskomnadzor has escalated its fight against Wikipedia's uncensored war-related content

On July 20, Russian telecommunications agency Roskomnadzor issued a statement saying that it was taking new action against Wikipedia for what it deems false information about the Russo-Ukrainian war. The statement, which said that it would require search engines to label Wikipedia as containing false war-related content, may mark a new front in Russia's fight to de-legitimize Wikipedia as a reputable and trusted source of information.

While Wikipedia currently remains available in Russia, Roskomnadzor has previously taken legal action against the Wikimedia Foundation for its decision not to remove information verboten in Russia from several Russian Wikipedia articles; a Moscow judge issued a ₽5,000,000 fine for non-compliance with Russian law earlier this year. The Wikimedia Foundation has appealed this court decision, arguing that Russia does not have territorial jurisdiction over the Wikimedia Foundation and that the Russian court's decision violates rights to free expression and access to knowledge.

And it's not only Russian bureaucrats that are going on the offensive against Wikipedia; legislators are applying public pressure in order to compel internet companies to change how they treat Wikipedia. In a July 20 post on a channel on messaging application Telegram, State Duma member Anton Gorelkin of the ruling United Russia party pressed Russian search engines to go beyond using warning labels and to affirmatively downgrade Wikipedia's search ranking, urging also to give an affirmative upgrade in search rankings to websites that are in full compliance with Russian censorship laws. Gorelkin criticized the Wikimedia Foundation's refusal to take down information that has been banned in Russia and described the decision to defy censorship orders as damaging to the credibility of the project.

Russian search engine Yandex has already rolled out warning labels relating to battles in Ukraine, though the text of existing warning labels do not appear to be specific to Wikipedia. One such warning placed atop Yandex search results reads "[н]екоторые материалы в интернете могут содержать недостоверную информацию. Пожалуйста, будьте внимательны", which in English means "some materials on the Internet may contain false information. Please be careful." Thus far, the implementation of these warning labels is far from comprehensive, even on Russia's largest homegrown search engine. For example, a search on Yandex for the "Битва за Киев (2022)", which in English means "battle for Kiev" contains this warning atop its page, while a direct search for the "Битва за Киев" (Битва за Киев) shows no such warning even though a Wikipedia article on the 2022 battle is its first result.

Despite pressure from the Russian government, the Wikimedia Foundation has not complied with any Russian court orders thus far, spokeswoman Samantha Lien told The New York Times. Instead of complying, per the spokeswoman, the Wikimedia Foundation remains "committed to our mission to deliver free knowledge to the world". The Wikimedia Foundation has previously said in a statement that "the articles flagged for removal uphold Wikipedia’s standards of neutrality, verifiability, and reliable secondary sources to ensure articles are based in fact".

Wikipedia remains accessible in Russia, for now. Over the past decade, Wikipedia has been under threat of being blocked by the Russian Federation and was briefly blocked by Roskomnadzor in 2015. Stanislav Kozlovsky, a co-founder of the Wikimedia Russia chapter, expressed in an interview with Russian opposition news outlet Meduza that it's more plausible that Wikipedia may become blocked in the Russian Federation than it traditionally had been. That being said, Kozlovsky told Meduza, "when someone points a gun at you for ten years straight, you get used to it". See further coverage in this issue's "In the media" column. – M

Brief notes

Emblem of the United Nations.svg
A win and a loss for Wikimedia at the UN this month
  • Mixed Wikimedia fortunes at the UN: This month (July 22), the Wikimedia Foundation won accreditation to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); a week prior (July 15), seven Wikimedia chapters failed to become permanent observers to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The Wikimedia press release reporting the latter result blames China alone, saying "China was the only country to oppose the Wikimedia chapters' request for observer status, again, claiming that chapters were complicit in spreading disinformation and are subsidiaries of the Wikimedia Foundation." A review of the session's webcast, however, available here ("Assemblies of the Member States of WIPO Sixty-Third Series of Meetings - A 63 Day 2 Afternoon 15/07/2022 15:02"), shows that China's position was supported by over a dozen other countries taking the floor, among them Russia, Belarus, Pakistan, Iran, Algeria, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, reflecting the world's increasing polarisation – it was much the same countries that voted against suspending Russia's membership in the UN Human Rights Council in April of this year. AK
  • 2023 Annual Plan released: The Wikimedia Foundation announced their strategic plan for the following year, which prioritizes advancing knowledge equity, deepening their commitment to Knowledge as a Service, strengthening movement governance and health, and improving the Foundation's performance and effectiveness.
  • Wikimania 2022: Wikimania will be held August 11–14. In-person events in English-speaking countries: United States, UK, and India. The Philippines will also be having in-person events, but we aren't certain which language will be used at time of publication.
  • ESEAP conference: ESEAP Conference 2022 will take place from Friday 18 November until 20 November at the University of Technology, Sydney and will feature strategic discussions, particularly in regards to regional Hub development as well as partnership, leadership and skills development aimed at building networks that can support a greater diversity of participants enabling future growth. — Caddie Brain (Executive Officer, Wikimedia Australia). Program submissions will open on 8 August and close on 23 September.
  • IPSJ joins TWL: The Information Processing Society of Japan (IPSJ), a popular source for computer science-related research publications, announced that it will be accessible in The Wikipedia Library.
  • Argentina Supreme Court decision: Last month, the Supreme Court...delivered a decision that upheld freedom of expression and protected free access to public information in a case regarding the right to be forgotten. The outcome of the case sets an important precedent for protecting access to reliable, verified information about people in the public eye—key for Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects, which rely on third party sources to verify information about living people.Ellen Magallanes (Senior Council) and Amalia Toledo (Lead Public Policy Specialist) via Diff
  • Students promote Wikipedia editing on TikTok: Diff covers the students at the University of New Mexico and their contributions to Wiki for Human Rights.
  • WMF looking for At-Large Directors for the Wikimedia Endowment Board: The WMF has advertised positions for 4–11 "At-Large Directors" to serve on the Wikimedia Endowment Board. "At-Large Directors must have prior fundraising or financial expertise and a passion for free knowledge," the advertisement on the greenhouse.io site says, adding that "Board positions are unpaid". According to the advertisement, Lisa Seitz-Gruwell, the WMF's Chief Advancement Officer, now also serves as "President" of the new Endowment organisation – a position not yet mentioned at the time of writing on the Endowment's Meta page. The most recent financial update on the Endowment was that it had reached $100 million in June 2021. AK
  • New affiliates and statement: The Affiliations Committee announced the approval of this month's newest Wikimedia movement affiliate, the Women in Religion User Group. The Committee also published a new statement regarding their position on Hubs.
  • Articles for Improvement: This week's Article for Improvement is Diego. Please be bold in helping improve this article!




Reader comments

As the dog days, the hottest time of the northern hemisphere's summer, are upon us, there are many solid news stories to report involving Wikipedia, such as the one about a candidate to become the UK prime minister. He dropped out after two days when accusations about his Wikipedia editing were resurfaced. But other stories might be attributed to silly season, the time of year when journalists create odd stories just to fill up space when there's little real news to cover. Dog days and silly season often occur about the same time, but dog days have traditional dates that amateur astronomers generally use, while silly season is a movable feast. Please let us know in the comments section which of the stories you think are part of silly season, and which are real news stories. Feel free to comment on the illustrations as well. – Sb

Irish High Court not influenced by Wikipedia says anon High Court source

Dublin Castle Gates of Fortitude and Justice 05.JPG
Do Wikipedia articles influence court decisions?

The Irish Times reports that Research suggesting Wikipedia may influence legal reasoning of Irish judges 'clearly wrong' mainly citing one unnamed source at the High Court. Their complaint is against the conclusions of a chapter to be published in The Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Jurisprudence (Cambridge University Press, 2022), titled "Trial by Internet: A Randomized Field Experiment on Wikipedia’s Influence on Judges’ Legal Reasoning".

The offended dignity of the High Court judges, as conveyed by the High Court anon, might seem to miss the mark. Using a classic experimental design, the first conclusion in the chapter merely shows that the presence of a Wikipedia article on an Irish case increases the frequency of that case being cited later. This would by itself say nothing about whether the judges read Wikipedia to write their opinions. The mechanism of the Wikipedia article's influence could be, as suggested by the anon, that the lawyers read Wikipedia and incorporate the good material into their briefs, which the judges properly study. Other indirect mechanisms of influence are also possible, for example, via interns, clerks, law school lectures, or just a generally more legally literate public.

But the chapter's authors take their analysis a step further. Via a linguistic analysis they test whether the wording of the judges is similar to the wording of the Wikipedia articles. They find that it is, even after removing phrases that quote or paraphrase the cited opinion. High Court judges, you may now properly consider your dignity to be offended. This section on linguistic analysis – rather than the classic randomized control trial – is the key to the chapter.

The authors' interpretations and many reactions to the chapter focus on the perceived threat that an unethical lawyer could bias a Wikipedia article to favor their clients. Yes, that is a theoretical possibility in the future, but there is no evidence in the chapter that this has already happened, and the article writers for the study itself were mostly law students, presumably not yet ruined by practical legal ethics.

The study may have other issues. The authors did the equivalent of search engine optimization by adding infoboxes and short description to the Wikipedia articles, to make sure they appeared near the top of search results. So does this show that Wikipedia really has a strong influence on justice, or simply demonstrate that cases that show up when you search for terms related to them are more likely to be cited?[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

In any case, it's not unprecedented for judges to cite Wikipedia in judicial opinions: in August 2012, The Signpost reported on how U.S. courts praised Wikipedia, and referenced back to citations of Wikipedia in the England and Wales High Court and other U.K. courts, U.S. courts, and even the European Court of Human Rights and a German patent tribunal. Sb, AC

Recession semi-protected

See this month's Op-Ed: The "recession" affair

National Public Radio, and many other outlets which run the gamut of reliability,[10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22] report on how the Wikipedia recession article has been semi-protected over an argument about the definition of "recession." Note that the NPR story was significantly modified on July 30, including an explanation from Rhododendrites. The argument began when the Commerce Department reported that the US GDP has gone down for two quarters in a row. This measure is a traditional indicator used in part by the NBER to define "recession". U.S. President Joe Biden and other administration officials have said that the current situation is not typical of a recession. A few Wiki editors disagreed and tried, against stiff opposition, to refine the definition. Meanwhile pageviews for the article rose to over 200,000 in one day, perhaps because of the possibility that the U.S. is in a recession, or perhaps because our readers expect Wikipedia to be the arbiter of the media tempest over the definition of recession. As usual the NBER is expected to take their time in making their pronouncement.

The threat of censorship: "You get used to it"

Stas Kozlovskiy.jpg
Wikimedia Russia director Stanislav Kozlovsky

Meduza, an independent Russian news site that's banned in Russia but publishes outside of Russia, interviewed Wikimedia RU director Stanislav Kozlovsky about Russian censorship. His surprising response is "When someone points a gun at you for ten years straight, you get used to it."

Kozlovsky points out several facts that may surprise western Wikipedians:

  • In 2013 Wikipedia was placed on the registry of banned websites and the web site could be blocked in Russia at any time.
  • The Russian chapter does not legally represent the Wikipedia Foundation in Russia and are not actively involved in the current disputes between the WMF and the Russian government.
  • The Russia censor Roskomnadzor used to discuss articles with the chapter several years ago, but mostly leaves them alone now.

This month Roskomnadzor announced that Russian search engines must put a warning label on Wikipedia articles. Kozlovsky said "The statement from Roskomnadzor’s press service is nothing but a fantasy from their press secretary, and I don’t think it’s going to have any effect on user demand [for Wikipedia]."

If Wikipedia were blocked in Russia, readers could still access the site from mirror sites or virtual private networks. Editing from within Russia might be cut off or slowed, but that would leave the site open to Ukrainian editors. The Signpost will add that many other editors from former Soviet republics, Israel, and the Russian diaspora in Europe and North America could also edit. In short, Russia has nothing to gain from blocking Wikipedia.

"The pressure on us right now is just another charade from Roskomnadzor," according to Kozlovsky. "I also think Wikipedia provides more value to Russia than the Science Ministry, the Education Ministry, and the Culture Ministry put together." S

Is Wikipedia a social network?

Writing in The Boston Globe, Shaun Cammack argues that Wikipedia is in many ways not much different from social media. "Wikipedia is a social media platform where user-generated opinions and interpretations battle it out in a game of popularity and attrition – just like Twitter," he writes. What makes it different than Twitter? Per Cammack, "Conflicts on Twitter proceed as though there were a single record that logs the conclusions of our collective debate. We like to imagine Twitter as a floating metaphysical ledger waiting for that final word. That’s why we dunk on people, fact-check, and correct the record: We think we’re in a reality war and there can be only one winner. But the imperative 'We all have to get on the same page' is literal on Wikipedia. It manifests that imagined ledger as a visible page on which the winning opinion is made concrete and true. And so it might be the most real and significant social media platform of all." M

The great Chinese history hoax

1611 tatars rebellion.jpg
A fictional map drawn by 折毛 for one of her Wikipedia articles

Sixth Tone, an English-language online magazine published by the Shanghai United Media Group, reported on 28 June that "A Chinese woman created over 200 fictional articles on Chinese Wikipedia, writing millions of words of imagined history that went unnoticed for more than 10 years." The hoaxer, User:折毛 (transliterated "Zhemao"), was dubbed "China's Borges" online, based on the intricacy of her work, which involved faked sourcing and the use of a number of sockpuppets. The story was subsequently picked up by outlets including the Literary Hub (June 28), Boing Boing (July 7), Vice (July 13) and Engadget (July 14).

Much like the hoaxer reponsible for the Bicholim conflict article (see previous Signpost coverage), Zhemao successfully nominated one of her articles, on Deportation of Chinese in the Soviet Union, for a quality assessment, winning FA status in the Chinese Wikipedia. As a result, a translation of her article was included in the English, Arabic, Russian, Ukrainian and Romanian Wikipedias. The English and Russian versions were substantially revised once the hoax became public; the other language versions have seen no substantial editing to date.

For internal discussions see:

Zhemao posted an apology in Chinese on her English user page explaining how her actions, initially innocuous, grew out of control. The event is now the subject of a dedicated Wikipedia article, which contains further detail: Zhemao hoaxes. AK

CEO Maryana Iskander interviewed

Maryana Iskander (cropped).jpg
Wikimedia CEO Maryana Iskander was interviewed this month in the San Francisco Examiner

The San Francisco Examiner published a long interview with WMF CEO Maryana Iskander. The 14 questions seem very basic, for example, "What’s the Wikimedia Foundation?", and "Isn’t Jimmy Wales the head of Wikipedia?" Her answers are short and direct and to a very large extent could be used for a great introduction for newbies to Wikipedia. But experienced editors might quibble with some of her answers.

"So how many people get paid and are professional editors of Wikipedia?" Iskander presents the Wikipedia ideal of every editor being an unpaid volunteer. It would be nice, when asked a direct question about paid editors, if she would address our terrible problem with paid editors who use Wikipedia for advertising or otherwise bias our content. This is a major question about the encyclopedia's credibility. Perhaps such a simple interview is not the best place to address this problem, but Wikipedia editors deserve an answer somewhere.

Similarly difficult issues, such as the overall gender gap, or the lack of non-white editors in the US are not mentioned. In these cases the interviewer did not ask the questions, but even so Iskander could have brought up major challenges herself. Wikipedia did not become a great encyclopedia by avoiding tough issues. S

Facebook experiments with Wikipedia fact-checking, partners with Wikimedia on translation

Meta Platforms Inc. logo.svg
Meta AI is taking an increasing interest in Wikipedia

Facebook AI Research has been organizing Wikipedia and fact-checking evaluation through its Side Editor tool since registering their research on Meta-wiki in January 2022. Now in July, Facebook presents an update and media including TechCrunch, CNBC, and Engadget report that their research may improve both fact-checking in Wikipedia and the broader media ecosystem.

To quote TechCrunch, Meta's AI knowledge tool is called "Sphere" and is –

built around the concept of tapping the vast repository of information on the open web to provide a knowledge base for AI and other systems to work. Sphere's first application, Meta says, is Wikipedia, where it's being used in a production phase (not live entries) to automatically scan entries and identify when citations in its entries are strongly or weakly supported.

In the Wikipedia community Facebook group Wikipedia Weekly, a Wikimedia staffer on the Partnerships Team commented that the Wikimedia Foundation and Facebook have had no collaboration on this project, and communicated that she had Facebook update their documentation to reflect this as can been seen in Internet Archive's website update comparison tool.

Wikimedia and Facebook parent Meta do have an acknowledged partnership when it comes to translation. As communicated by Meta AI on Twitter, Wikipedia editors are using their technology to translate texts into underserved languages. A dedicated page on ai.facebook.com claims that it is "translating Wikipedia for everyone" with "No Language Left behind (NLLB)" and that Wikipedia editors are "using the technology to more efficiently translate and edit articles originating in other under-represented languages, such as Luganda and Icelandic." This Meta AI/Wikimedia partnership was reported this month by MediaPost and The Register.

The NLLB-200 model is open source, and there has been an NLLB-200 page on MediaWiki since January 2022, originally referring to the project under its earlier name of "Flores". A Twitter thread from a long-time Wikimedian argues that

This collaboration is exciting, helpful and problematic – all at the same time.

In the Wikimedia community it is customary that stakeholder engagement, consent, and public conversation about values are part of feature development. If such Wikimedia community engagement exists for these Facebook projects, then The Signpost has not identified where those conversations happened, and we call on readers to identify and document discussions and community collaborations to date. B, AK

Prime minister candidates shouldn't edit their Wikipedia articles

Official portrait of Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP crop 3.jpg
Grant Shapps' Wikipedia edits made a return to UK news media in the context of the Tories' search for a new Prime Minister

Grant Shapps, the UK's transport secretary, might seem to be the perfect successor to the fuzzy-headed UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but he soon dropped out of the race after his past performances were replayed in the press. Australian Broadcasting Corporation wrote how Shapps used the pseudonym Michael Green while selling an online guide which "claimed customers could make $20,000 in 20 days". He's also been accused of deleting embarrassing material from the Wikipedia article about him and adding unflattering material about his political rivals.

The Express gave further details on Shapps's alleged Wikipedia editing in "Grant Shapps humiliation: Minister edited school grades on own Wikipedia page" and reported that he had "pulled out of the race" for prime minister.

The race for the prime minister's office is now down to two candidates. Either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak will be elected by Conservative Party members by mail-in or online ballots, with results to be reported in early September.

Johnson said earlier this year "It's like some person trying to edit their Wikipedia entry – it's wrong." See previous Signpost coverage here. S

Duchess and a dirty deed

Tom Bower's new book. Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the war between the Windsors, has revived discussion of an old accusation that Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, had the Wikipedia article about her changed three weeks before the announcement of her engagement to Prince Harry. The accusations, first from The Telegraph (paywalled), then from Page Six, linked to two edits on October 9, 2016 which eliminated material which made Markle look like a minor Hollywood starlet, and added or emphasized material on the public service aspect of her career that might make her more acceptable to the British royal family.

Marie Claire has the best of the new crop of articles on the matter and cites Page Six:

Page Six reported in 2020 that the then-actress [ Megan Markle's ] Wikipedia page had made the object of a bunch of changes in October 2016, before her months-old relationship with [Prince] Harry was revealed just weeks later. The outlet claimed that the IP address responsible for these changes was "linked to a Los Angeles PR firm with no known links to the duchess."

A Signpost investigation confirms the description of the October 9 edits and also notes that the editor's IP address currently geolocates to Shelter Public Relations in Los Angeles. They have not responded to a request for comment. Tom Bower however told The Signpost that he did not know whether Markle paid the PR company, or whether friends of hers were responsible for the edits, as The Telegram had speculated. More generally, he knows that many celebrities closely watch the articles about themselves. He even offered to name one of his acquaintances who closely monitored his article and removed offensive material. – B, Sb

Deletion review worse than canceling cable

Complaints that Articles for Deletion is rigged against article subjects are only slightly more novel to most Wikipedians than indoor plumbing, but it's worth reading music historian Ted Gioia's blog post, "How a Prominent Composer Lost His Wikipedia Page—and Got Entangled in Kafkaesque Nightmare Trying to Get it Back," if only to better understand how the deletion process comes across to outsiders.

Gioia makes a case for a page for Bruce Faulconer, best known for his music for Dragon Ball Z, whose page was redirected to that title following a straightforward AfD a few weeks ago that failed to find evidence of significant media coverage or other notability qualifiers. Gioia doesn't find any either, nor does he demonstrate understanding of notability on Wikipedia, instead citing "commissions from dozens of prominent institutions and individuals." From there, he asserts that "petty tyrants connected with the site have imposed their spurious opinions via the platform," citing the user-generated Q&A site Quora.

Gioia says he was referred to deletion review, and he raises the reasonable point that the instructions for listing an entry there leave a lot to be desired, although he mistakenly interprets the complexity as deliberate, writing "This kind of system is clearly designed to intimidate and bully. It's even worse than trying to cancel cable service."

His last-ditch thought to contact the Wikimedia Foundation is preempted by a friend who's already heard that they have no control over content, which he similarly misinterprets as obfuscation.

As the author of 11 books, Gioia is presumably a reliable source on musicians. But if he wants Faulconer to have an article, he should probably write something about his music rather than about his deleted page.

Since then, Bruce Faulconer has been reinstated and expanded. Sdkb

In brief

GorillaWarfare 2022.jpg
Molly White was featured this month in The Guardian


Do you want to contribute to "In the media" by writing a story or even just an "in brief" item? Edit next month's edition in the Newsroom or leave a tip on the suggestions page.

Footnotes

  1. ^ McKinney, C. J. (July 28, 2022). "Top judges use Wikipedia, research shows". Legalcheek.com.
  2. ^ Gordon, R. (July 27, 2022). "Study finds Wikipedia influences judicial behavior". MIT News.
  3. ^ Shankland, S. (July 29, 2022). "Wikipedia Influences How Judges Work, MIT Study Finds". CNET.
  4. ^ "Study finds judges are increasingly citing Wikipedia in legal decisions". Engadget.
  5. ^ Fingas, J. (July 27, 2022). "Wikipedia articles 20% more likely to influence legal reasoning of Irish judges, scientists find". The Irish Times.
  6. ^ Phelan, S. (July 27, 2022). "Irish judges are relying on Wikipedia when writing judgments, study finds". Irish Independent.
  7. ^ Rauwerda, A. (July 28, 2022). "Judges crib notes from Wikipedia before making legal decisions, study finds". Input Magazine.
  8. ^ Gordon, R. (July 28, 2022). "How Wikipedia influences judicial behavior". Phys.org.
  9. ^ Hagerty, C. (July 27, 2022). "A new study shows how judges in Ireland used Wikipedia in their decisions". Popular Science.
  10. ^ Meads, Tim; Gay, Nathan (July 28, 2022). "Wikipedia's 'Recession' Page Shows 41 Edits In One Week, Attempts At Changing Definition". The Daily Wire.
  11. ^ Burack, Bobby (July 28, 2022). "Wikipedia Bans Edits to 'Recession' Page". OutKick.
  12. ^ Hannity Staff (July 28, 2022). "WIKI TWEAKS: 41 Edits Made to Wikipedia's 'Recession' Page in One Week". Hannity.com.
  13. ^ Daviscourt, Katie (July 28, 2022). "Wikipedia redefines 'recession' to resemble Biden's changes—then locks page to new edits". The Post-Millennial.
  14. ^ Oliveira, Alex (July 28, 2022). "Wikipedia joins in the gaslighting! Online encyclopedia SUSPENDS edits to its 'recession' page after woke users changed definition to align with Biden's claim that the US isn't in one". Daily Mail.
  15. ^ Silverio, Nicole (July 28, 2022). "Wikipedia Attempts To Change The Definition Of 'Recession' 41 Times". Daily Caller.
  16. ^ Bickerton, James (July 29, 2022). "Wikipedia Suspends Editing of Recession Page as Biden Rejects Claims". Newsweek.
  17. ^ Schemmel, Alec (July 29, 2022). "Wikipedia freezes edits to 'recession' entry after editors try to align with Biden". Idaho News.
  18. ^ Zilber, Ariel (July 29, 2022). "Elon Musk blasts Wikipedia after it suspends edits of 'recession' page". New York Post.
  19. ^ Hutton, Christopher (July 29, 2022). "Wikipedia restricts edits to 'recession' page after Biden denial of definition". Washington Examiner.
  20. ^ Leeman, Zachary (July 29, 2022). "Wikipedia Suspends Editing 'Recession' Page After Users Furiously Debate Definition". Mediaite.
  21. ^ Mui, Christine (July 29, 2022). "The recession debate is so intense that Wikipedia has blocked new users from editing its recession page because people keep changing the definition". Fortune.
  22. ^ Delaney, Matt (July 31, 2022). "Wikipedia sees tug of war break out over its definition of 'recession'". The Washington Times.



Reader comments


Note: JPxG, the author of this article, participated heavily in this discussion, and got quoted in Fortune about it. I tried to do the responsible thing and get someone else to write this, but I failed, so instead I'm writing a political op-ed about a RfC that I opened and then participated in. Read at your own (and my own) risk.
CRAIYON-REALESRGAN-People arguing over the definition of a recession.jpg
Debates, debates, debates...

Y'all heard about politics?

Before you start: yes, this is an American Politics 2 thing. If you want to just unplug your monitor right now, this is probably better for your mental health. Go ahead, I don't blame you. You might want a claw hammer to make sure.

...

You're still here? Okay, well, abandon all hope ye who enter here.

Here is the deal: a few days ago, the United States Commerce Department reported that gross domestic product had gone down for two quarters in a row (a criterion often said to indicate when an economy is "in a recession"). U.S. President Joe Biden, along with other administration officials, said that the current situation is not typical of a recession, and that official determinations of US recessions are made by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The NBER is some big-brain organization which conducts comprehensive evaluations of "economic activity spread across the market, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales", and uses these factors to determine start and end dates for US recessions. Pretty straightforward.[1]

Okay, some politicians said some stuff: who cares? Well, it turns out, Wikipedia has an article about recessions (oh no). It turns out that this article provides some definitions of recessions (oh no). If you have ever heard of Wikipedia, it is easy to predict what happened next: some people edited the article. If you have ever heard of Twitter, it is easy to predict what happened after that: all hell broke loose.

So a few people on Twitter posted screenshots of the article's revision history, implying that it was being modified to advance a political agenda. This claim was immediately picked up by a number of publications, some more reliable than others.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14] Some of them reported on the controversy, and many of them just reprinted the tweets without checking. For the record, the articles in the Washington Examiner, Fortune, and NPR were pretty good. But most of them figured that the big story here was that Wikipedia had officially altered the definition of a recession, and that we had permanently locked the page to any subsequent edits, and we were falling in lockstep with the Biden administration's attempts to do the same, and it was yet another entry in a long list of the woke far-left Wikipedia libs censoring reality to suit their agenda, and this country is going down the tubes, and kids these days are on their phones too much, and I went to CVS and I can't find the damn antacid pills, and the sky is falling and we're all going to die.

A bunch of people got really mad about this, and approximately a bajillion of them showed up on the talk page to tell us about it, and Elon Musk @'d Jimbo Wales about it, and...

But, okay, hold on a minute, what? Is that actually true? I mean, the part about Wikipedia officially altering the definition of a recession and locking the page to all further changes, not the part about CVS deciding to put the Rolaids somewhere stupid, which is obviously true. Did any of that Wikipedia stuff really happen? Did we really pull a MINITRUE? The answer may surprise you! Or it may not. Actually, now that I think of it, the answer is extremely unlikely to surprise you.

The answer is "no". As it turns out, the real story is much more boring than this. This didn't stop approximately three million people from showing up to yell at us about it. I wrote a very long FAQ for the talk page, which I am pleased to report has been getting posted on Twitter in response to people getting mad about the news stories. It really warms the cockles of my heart. Anyway, since there is a big ongoing discussion about the content of this article, including a huge RfC on the infamous sentence that I started and then gave an opinion on, I am going to shut my mouth, and show you what's in the FAQ, in the hopes that it proves enlightening:

The infamous FAQ

Hi, people from online. I'm JPxG. I agree that censorship is a cowardly chickenshit attack on the foundations of free society, that the basic principles of the open Internet are threatened by attempts to rewrite history, and all of that stuff. However, allow me to address a few things:

I read online that Wikipedia changed the definition of a recession.
The thing that is getting shared around everywhere is no longer the case. The sentence "Though there is no global consensus on the definition of a recession, two consecutive quarters of decline in a country's real gross domestic product is commonly used as a practical definition of a recession" is currently right there in the lead section. Additionally, it wasn't there for very long to begin with (it was added for the first time a few days ago). The screenshots of the stuff getting removed are out of date.
Okay, so what, someone tried to remove it?
The article always said something about "two down GDP quarters". The first section of the article, titled "Definition", has mentioned it since 2011. As far as I can tell, nobody ever messed with this. The entire current dispute is over whether it should say this in the lead paragraph and the definition section, or just in the definition section. Right now, the article gives both that definition and the NBER definition, and takes no position on which is "correct". The NBER definition is "a significant decline in economic activity spread across the market, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales".
And now it's locked?
It is semi-protected for a few days, so in order to edit it you need an account that's autoconfirmed (one that's at least four days old and has ten edits). So, for most people reading this, the answer is probably "yes" (although you can make a suggestion at the bottom of this Talk page that will be reviewed by contributors who can make changes to the page if there is a consensus to do so). Starting on August 3, non-autoconfirmed users will be able to edit it again, but their edits will be held for human review before being visible to most readers.
What's the deal with there being a million edits on this page in one day?
Articles get edited a lot, for all kinds of reasons. If you go to Special:RecentChanges, you will see that about a hundred edits are made every minute. Most of them are stuff like fixing spelling errors, adding/removing hyperlinks, rephrasing sentences, or improving the formatting so the page is easier to read. Oftentimes, people will expand an article that's already been written, because they found some book or article or paper somewhere that's got information (for example, last night I went and found out what the last movie was to be released on VHS, and added it to the article because it wasn't there). The fact that a page is being edited doesn't itself mean something crazy is going on. It usually means someone is replacing a colon with a semicolon.
How do I see what edits have been made to an article?
You can see every old revision of every Wikipedia article in the "history" tab at the top of each page (for this article's history you can click here).
Why are there all these administrators saying weird stuff here?
Almost nobody commenting here is an administrator. Most of us are normal contributors. Anyone on here is allowed to just go to talk pages and say stuff. This means that, a lot of the time, some guy will show up on a talk page and start saying ridiculous stuff about how we need to delete every article about a Democrat, or block all Republicans from editing, or whatever. It is just some guy saying stuff. This is not our policy.
Why is Wikipedia paying you to do this stuff?
It isn't. Wikipedia contributors are not paid employees of Wikipedia, we "do it for free" as they say (some people get secretly paid to write propaganda or spam articles; we delete their stuff and block them).
I heard you guys are all head-over-heels in love with that politician guy.
I have never really been a big fan of politicians in general. I can't speak for everyone else.
Okay, well, I have some stuff I want to say.
If you want to participate in the discussion regarding what the content of the article should be, you are of course free to do so. An encyclopedia written by millions of people requires a lot of bureaucracy in order to function at all without immediately descending into chaos, though, so I will warn you that it will probably be difficult to participate (especially on a political topic) without a bunch of people saying stuff like "Strike per WP:NPA, WP:NOTFORUM and WP:TPG" unless you are willing to read a lot of boring guidelines beforehand. In general, if your comment is not about improving the Wikipedia article titled "Recession", it probably does not belong here. jp×g 22:22, 28 July 2022 (UTC)

References

  1. ^ Well, apparently it's not "pretty straightforward" for many people, but a full discussion of the issues involved is wildly outside the scope of this article.
  2. ^ Meads, Tim; Gay, Nathan (July 28, 2022). "Wikipedia's 'Recession' Page Shows 41 Edits In One Week, Attempts At Changing Definition". The Daily Wire.
  3. ^ Burack, Bobby (July 28, 2022). "Wikipedia Bans Edits to 'Recession' Page". OutKick.
  4. ^ Hannity Staff (July 28, 2022). "WIKI TWEAKS: 41 Edits Made to Wikipedia's 'Recession' Page in One Week". Hannity.com.
  5. ^ Daviscourt, Katie (July 28, 2022). "Wikipedia redefines 'recession' to resemble Biden's changes—then locks page to new edits". The Post-Millennial.
  6. ^ Oliveira, Alex (July 28, 2022). "Wikipedia joins in the gaslighting! Online encyclopedia SUSPENDS edits to its 'recession' page after woke users changed definition to align with Biden's claim that the US isn't in one". Daily Mail.
  7. ^ Silverio, Nicole (July 28, 2022). "Wikipedia Attempts To Change The Definition Of 'Recession' 41 Times". Daily Caller.
  8. ^ Bickerton, James (July 29, 2022). "Wikipedia Suspends Editing of Recession Page as Biden Rejects Claims". Newsweek.
  9. ^ Schemmel, Alec (July 29, 2022). "Wikipedia freezes edits to 'recession' entry after editors try to align with Biden". Idaho News.
  10. ^ Zilber, Ariel (July 29, 2022). "Elon Musk blasts Wikipedia after it suspends edits of 'recession' page". New York Post.
  11. ^ Hutton, Christopher (July 29, 2022). "Wikipedia restricts edits to 'recession' page after Biden denial of definition". Washington Examiner.
  12. ^ Leeman, Zachary (July 29, 2022). "Wikipedia Suspends Editing 'Recession' Page After Users Furiously Debate Definition". Mediaite.
  13. ^ Mui, Christine (July 29, 2022). "The recession debate is so intense that Wikipedia has blocked new users from editing its recession page because people keep changing the definition". Fortune.
  14. ^ Delaney, Matt (July 31, 2022). "Wikipedia sees tug of war break out over its definition of 'recession'". The Washington Times.



Reader comments


On his talk page on Commons, George Chernilevsky reports on the invasion of Ukraine from the city of Vinnytsia. Previously, we published parts 1 and 2 of his war diary. With George's permission, here is part 3.
There is always a "fog of war" and The Signpost is not in a position to verify all the facts as presented here. Any opinions stated here are George's, and we do not necessarily agree or disagree with them.
This article was intended to be published in the May issue. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, it is being published now, with some other additions. The Signpost team wishes to express our apologies for this delay.
We offer our condolences to George and his family for the loss of his youngest son.
E, J

A trip to Kyiv

Most importantly, we found the body of our son in the morgue. Many of the preliminary data were inaccurate or not correct at all.

My wife and I left on Monday. The journey by train instead of three hours according to the schedule took seven. On this day there were air raids on the railway just along our route. In Vinnytsia, they boarded the train to the sound of an air raid siren. There were very long stops just away from the stations. Then they learned in the news that there were air strikes on Zhmerynka and on Koziatyn in the Vinnytsia region. Five killed and eighteen wounded. We were just in Koziatyn at that time.

Kyiv looks very unusual. Shop windows and signs have disappeared, there are few people on the streets, but many checkpoints, anti-tank hedgehogs and shelters. The first floors of buildings are protected by sandbags.

The police department prepared all the documents for us. The most painful was identification by photographs. I did this myself to save my wife. These were shots after death. I was able to recognize my son's face in only one of the three shots: his head was smashed. But there was also a picture of a hand with a tattoo, so that killed any hope that maybe it was just a mistake. I asked why they didn't tell us, why we could only find our son through unofficial channels. Answer: “Our police officers went to the front line, to checkpoints and to patrol. There are just no people for work."

With the date of death, there is also confusion in different documents. The protocols were drawn up with a great delay, the police simply physically could not fill out everything at once. Therefore, there are four different options for the date of death. March 19 is the biometric identification date, so it was dropped. Then the police consulted among themselves and decided that the most likely date was March 4th. This date was eventually included in the documents, but we understand that this may not be accurate.

Things and documents were not found near the body, so identification was carried out by fingerprints. Ukraine has long introduced biometric European-style passports; fingerprints are taken upon receipt of the document.

According to a preliminary police report, the son had already been buried. With all subsequent questions, we were sent to the morgue, it’s good that at least they knew which one. We just hoped that this was an individual grave, and not a common burial.

The mortuary is a place of great human sorrow. A heavy cadaverous smell can be heard for a hundred meters. There are several large refrigerators in the yard - trailers without tractors, connected by cables to a power substation. At the morgue, we found out that there was an order to bury, but it was literally cancelled at the last minute as they had just found additional refrigerators. The queue for paperwork on death is about a day and the queue for receiving the body is two or more days. This is despite the fact that the morgue operates around the clock.

We spent the night in the apartment where I lived while I worked in the Kyiv office. The heating was turned off, it was cold, but these are trifles, it's just no one has been here for a couple of months.

Not far from the place where we lived, there is a high-rise residential building with a large hole from a missile. Five floors were broken, but in the evening the lights came on in some of the surviving apartments of this house. People live there too.

The body had to be taken later. We were warned that all the bodies are in poor condition, so only on-site burial in a closed coffin or cremation is possible. It is technically impossible to transport the body to Vinnytsia, even commercial funeral companies refused to do so. However, after the cremation, we will be able to pick up the urn with the ashes and bury it at the Vinnytsia cemetery, so we chose this option.

Before receiving the body, I once again had to go through identification, but not by photographs: in reality. Again, I went to the identification alone. I didn’t recognize his face at all, but I saw a familiar tattoo on his arm; our son invented it for himself and drew a sketch in Photoshop. So there were no mistakes. This is a wild state, when the hope arises in the soul several times: "But what if everyone was mistaken?".

Farewell was in a closed coffin, the funeral was at the Baikove Cemetery. There were only my wife and I near the open doors of a car adapted for a hearse.

After the funeral, the coffin was taken to the crematorium.

The urn with the ashes will be given out somewhere after May 10, it will be necessary to go to Kyiv again.

We saw only one of the morgues (there are six in Kyiv). And Kyiv is a relatively prosperous city. The situation in Kharkov is a hundred times worse - there are 22-25 shelling and bombing of the city per day. And Mariupol has generally turned into a lunar landscape of craters.
-- GC

05.02.2022

Thank you all, friends.

I saw a lot of grief because of the war in other Ukrainian families. Yes, the story of our family is the most ordinary in this terrible time. There are families that have endured much more suffering.
-- GC

05.03.2022 - 69th day of the war

Air raid sirens and air defense claps were heard in Vinnytsia today. Two cruise missiles were shot down near Vinnytsia. Russian missile strikes were also on Lviv, Kirovohrad Oblast and for the first time since the beginning of the war on the Zakarpattia Oblast. Railroad trains are running late again.
-- GC

05.05.2022 - 71th day of the war

Today, captured Russian armored vehicles were brought to Vinnytsia for display. These are heavily damaged and charred vehicles that are no longer suitable for use in the army. Just an exhibition about modern warfare.
And again air raid sirens in Vinnytsia just now.
-- GC

05.09.2022 - 75th day of the war

May 9 is the day of celebration of the victory in World War II in the USSR and now in Russia. Traditionally, it should be celebrated in Russia on a very large scale. However, this year's victory day was sad and dull. I personally watched the full broadcast of this enemy parade. So, how was it different from a similar frenzy a year ago?

Some such equipment was captured as trophies in good condition and is already being used by the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Also, aviation was completely cancelled at the parade. Armed Forces of Ukraine have destroyed 199 planes and 158 helicopters by this day. Also typical, after the military parade, there should have been a demonstration of the civilian population with posters “1941-1945. We can do it again!" "To Berlin!", but not in 2022. However, in 2022 there is not even a hint of jubilation in Russia. No posters, no joy. Also, I did not see anywhere a new Russian swastika in the form of the letter "Z".

After the parade, Putin laid wreaths at the monuments of the Second World War. And at the same time, air raids on the cities of Ukraine began again. Now Russia uses very old Kh-22 missiles (1962 development), with very low accuracy and very poisonous liquid fuel engine. Seven explosions in Odessa just now. Air raid sirens also sound in Vinnytsia.
-- GC

18.07.2022 - 145th day of the war

Today Vinnytsia was visited by a delegation of EU and Israeli ambassadors, in particular, diplomatic representatives of France, Croatia, Slovenia, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark and Germany. In total, about two dozen diplomats came. These diplomats were able to see the site of the missile strike, the site of the Russian terrorist attack. --GC




Reader comments


Six candidates stand on an "Election Compass".
Six have been chosen for us to vote on


This article is not an official election material and was not endorsed by the Elections Committee. –E & J

The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees oversees the Wikimedia Foundation and its work, as its ultimate corporate authority. The Board directs the Foundation in its operations, hires the Chief Executive Officer, ensures that the movement stays on track, and holds its management accountable.

Since April 2022, an election has been in the works to select two new candidates for the Board to represent the Wikimedia movement at large. This election is quickly nearing the most crucial phase - community voting! Here's all you need to know to make an informed choice.

Getting to know the candidates

On July 19, the Wikimedia Foundation Elections Committee published the result of affiliate shortlisting for the 2022 Board elections. Six candidates were selected:

These candidates were selected considering evaluations made by an Analysis Committee selected by Affiliates, which evaluated candidates on their "lived experiences in the world... especially... the regions of Africa, South Asia, East and South East Asia & Pacific, and Latin America & Caribbean", "cultural and linguistic fluency with regions and languages additional to your native region and language", "experience as an advocate for creating safe and collaborative spaces for all and/or experience in situations or contexts of censorship, repression, or other attacks to human rights", and "experience in relation to or as a member of... a group that has faced historical discrimination and underrepresentation in structures of power including but not limited to caste, race, ethnicity, colour, national origin, nationality, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, religion, language, culture, education, abilities, income and environment".

The Signpost has offered each of the six shortlisted candidates an Op-Ed space in The Signpost to express their views beyond their official statements. Please note that the views expressed in each of these opinion articles are those of their authors; they do not necessarily reflect the views of, nor an endorsement from, The Signpost.

Voting on an Election Compass

There will be an "Election Compass" for this year's board election, introduced as a tool to help voters select the candidates that best align with their beliefs and views.

Community members have proposed statements that candidates will answer using a Likert scale (strongly support/support/neutral/oppose/strongly oppose). To use the Election Compass, voters have to enter their own responses to the statements and the Compass will then show them the candidates whose views are most closely aligned with their own.

The statements the candidates have to respond to are key to a good Election Compass. The proposed statements can be viewed on Meta. Community members are now able to vote on the statements they'd like to see included until August 3. The overall timeline, as announced on the Wikimedia-l mailing list, is as follows:

  • July 8–20: Community members propose statements for the Election Compass (already completed)
  • July 21–22: Elections Committee reviews statements for clarity and removes off-topic statements (already completed)
  • July 25 – August 3: Volunteers vote on the statements (ending shortly)
  • August 4: Elections Committee selects the top 15 statements
  • August 5–12: Candidates align themselves with the statements
  • August 16 (now delayed to August 23): The Election Compass opens for voters to use to help guide their voting decision

The Elections Committee oversees the process, supported by the Movement Strategy and Governance team. Movement Strategy and Guidance will check that the questions are clear, there are no duplicates, no typos, and so on.

Asking individual candidates questions or commenting on candidates

This year, candidates will only be formally asked six questions as a whole by the community (fifteen questions were asked by affiliate representatives, but not all community members are represented by an affiliate). In the previous 2021 election, there was significant controversy on how questions were chosen, and not all Wikimedians agreed with the final set of queries.

The Signpost is pleased to provide a space to spotlight answers to additional questions posed by community members. All of the six candidates have indicated interest in answering questions on their talk pages; we intend to republish answers to questions posed on the discussion pages below. Please note that under the Candidate Guidelines, it is optional for the candidates to answer questions outside of the formal Elections Committee-organized process.

Spreading the word

Lastly, we encourage you to share news of the election with your friends, families, acquaintances and enemies! Feel free to link to this article or any other coverage of The Signpost. Social buttons are always available to use at the top of each article, allowing you to download it as a PDF, email it, or share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Reddit.

From the team, happy summer or winter, and thank you for reading The Signpost.




Reader comments

A pig wearing a crown and royal robes.
Opinion pieces such as this one reflect the opinion of their author(s), not necessarily that of The Signpost. E

Technoblade – real name Alexander – was a Minecraft YouTuber who died in June this year. He was immensely popular, with a YouTube channel boasting over 10 million subscribers – a household name among the Minecraft community. That's no small community; over 170 million people play Minecraft at least once a month – if that was a country it would be the 8th biggest country in the world, with over 15 million people playing the game every single day.[1] Technoblade was a very big fish in a very big pond.

Now it's fair to say that not all of Technoblade's 10 million subscribers watched every one of his videos. Some of them received as little as 5–6 million views whereas others exceeded 30 million. His live streams consistently attracted over a million viewers – not much compared to his pre-recorded videos but still much more than many television or radio shows that are considered notable enough to have a Wikipedia article.

And yet, Technoblade did not have a Wikipedia article before he died.

Attempts had been made to write an article about him, but these failed for a couple of reasons. One is that they were often fancruft – badly written biased, unsourced twaddle that wasn't worth the bytes of storage it consumed. The other is that Technoblade was not notable, according to our guidelines, until he died.

While he was alive, although he was very well known among that large community of people I outlined, very little was written about him, especially in what we would recognise as reliable sources. Whereas a conventional media show pulling in the numbers of viewers Technoblade did would almost certainly have widespread coverage in newspapers and magazines, the only substantial material you would be able to find about Technoblade in sources independent of the man himself would be in other people's similar content, blogs or discussion forums. He was probably one of the most notable non-notable people alive.

But when he died of cancer, aged just 23, it was big news. Big enough to warrant stories on news websites across the world, from publishers including the BBC and the Evening Standard to name just a couple, alongside just about every technology-focused publication you could think of. Only when he died was there sufficient coverage for us to create a well-sourced Wikipedia article and fulfill our own notability criteria.

Yet it wasn't his death that was notable. Yes, that's what the articles were about, because that's what the news was. But people die of cancer every single day; there wasn't anything special about Technoblade's death. His death was notable and received that level of news coverage because his life was notable. Because he was notable, as a person, when he was alive.

Notable, but not noted. At least, not by us here on Wikipedia.

So ... did we get it wrong? Is our notability guideline so harsh, so clear-cut, so strict, that it prevented us having an article on a subject that we should have had years earlier? Should we be looking at changing it, or perhaps having a different set of criteria for social media stars like Technoblade who had little written about him in our conventional sources until his death?

Personally, I don't think so. I absolutely think there was indeed a failing here. Technoblade was indeed notable while he was alive, but it was not a failure on Wikipedia's part that resulted in his article never materialising. The simple fact is, had sufficient material been written about him in the mainstream press, or indeed in academic papers studying the phenomena of social media, gaming content creation and youth culture, then we would have had an article on him. As it was, there was simply nothing for us to write about, because we needed others to write about him first.

The problem is not our notability guideline. The problem is not that we should have had an article on Technoblade before he died – we shouldn't. The problem is that mainstream media is still largely comprised of television broadcasters and old-fashioned newspapers who happen to have built websites for themselves, and those organisations are very much self-obsessed. Newspapers write about what's on television. Television news shows – particularly at the beginning and end of the day – devote time to telling you what the newspaper headlines say. It's incredibly rare for them to cover anything that's happening on YouTube or Twitch. And it's that failing of conventional media outlets to engage with modern youth culture – their failing, not ours – that meant poor Technoblade only became the subject of a Wikipedia article after his death.

I'll sign off with this final thought. You might think that I'm writing all this as a Technoblade fan and you'd be wrong. I didn't like him at all, I found his content brash and noisy and I couldn't stomach hearing it for more than a few minutes at a time. So I'm not writing this as a Technoblade fan but as a Wikipedia fan; a fan of our original mantra to "make the internet not suck". And on that note I have to say this: if it takes a clearly notable person to die of cancer at a young age to become technically notable, then the internet does very much suck.

RIP Technoblade.



Reader comments


Warning: Readers may find parts of this article disturbing. Specifically, the sections on mass murderers and sexual predators who have edited Wikipedia discuss their crimes, and include descriptions of how Wikipedia was used by them, which range from unrelated editing to being directly connected with the crime in some way. Discretion is advised.

With the support of the staff of The Signpost, our new editors-in-chief, JPxG and EpicPupper have declared a new Signpost policy. We believe that many mass shooters are in part motivated by the prospect of publicity and the chance to spread their views, so we will not name mass shooters who are suspected of editing Wikipedia pages.
I personally agree with the new policy. But it raises questions about other Wikipedia editors who are criminals as well as non-criminal "black hat editors". How should The Signpost and Wikipedia as a whole, deal with these types of editors? The opinion piece explores this question. The opinions I express are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Signpost or of other Wikipedians.Sb
Serial killer using a laptop.
Sus.

Criminals edit Wikipedia. They include a couple of the mass shooters who have terrorized many Americans recently. They also include others who have committed particularly heinous murders, convicted sex criminals, financial con artists such as insider traders and Ponzi scheme operators. There are also tax-evading billionaires – one awaiting trial, another who has already confessed and is waiting to testify at trial. And then there's those who haven’t officially entered the criminal justice system, such as some of the Russian oligarchs. I’ll call these and similar editors “black hat editors”, just to keep these distinctions clear.

First, though, you should know how I know that criminals edit Wikipedia. To show that The Signpost does not need to identify criminals by their user names or real world names, I won’t name some of the convicted criminals.

How I know there are criminals among us

The first time I was absolutely convinced that a Wikipedia contributor was a convicted criminal, I felt it was an honor to be able to revert such a well-known ex-con. It wasn’t hard to identify him: his user name was a slight variant of his real world name and he was editing the article about himself. He’d already identified himself as the subject of the article several times. He removed a quote from the then-Chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and called the addition of the quote "vandalism". The quote was about how horrible the article subject’s crime was (guilty on 53 counts of insider trading), and how he hurt the reputation of America’s financial journalists. The article's subject had been a financial journalist whose column effectively recommended the purchase or sale of certain stocks. He’d provide this information before publication to his insider trading partners, thus giving a good hint as to whether particular stock prices would rise or fall. When he was arrested for insider trading his defense was that his actions were unethical, but not illegal. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with his defense, setting an important precedent.

A few months later, I ran into another criminal editor. A convicted, but not-yet sentenced, Ponzi scheme operator put the most remarkable text in a hand-written confession that he sent to his wife. The confession made its way to the FBI, into the federal indictment, and into the pages of a highly reputable newspaper. In part he described himself as a "financial serial killer" and continued "I hate the fact that I am just another scumbag con artist bilking old people out of their retirement money. I have always hated those guys. How could I become one?" He'd also written an email to to his investor-victims saying that all the money was misappropriated and just gone. Of course I quoted part of the note in the article about him.

Then he, or somebody impersonating him, really surprised me: Identifying himself by his real name in the edit summary, he edited the article, confirming the quote but trying to explain it away by giving his state of mind when he wrote it, claiming he was distraught and had even considered self-harm. Strange, but who else could explain his state of mind at the time? After asking a couple questions on his talk page, I was convinced that the editor was the actual Ponzi schemer.

So I've been convinced for a long time that criminals edit Wikipedia. Financial crimes like this typically cost their victims tens of millions of dollars. But are there more dangerous or serious criminals editing Wikipedia?

You might want to skip this section

This section details mass shooters and murderers who have edited Wikipedia, and includes brief descriptions of their horrific acts. In some cases, this included using Wikipedia during those acts, requiring more description. The subsection after it deals with sexual predators, and their attempts to hide knowledge of their crimes by editing Wikipedia, again, requiring some description of what was being attempted to be hidden.

Mass shooters and other murderers

In early July a mass shooter horrified America killing seven people at a parade near Chicago. A reliable online newspaper published an article naming a Wikipedia editor as the shooter - or perhaps the editor was a close friend of the shooter. The on-Wiki editing evidence is a bit thin, but it’s enough to convince me unless further evidence comes to light: The editor in question made about six edits over three days a few years ago, all promoting a rap singer who has now been identified by name in the mainstream press as the suspected shooter. The edits are fairly normal promotional edits: the standard garage-band-style advertisement that most editors here have seen dozens of times. To the best of my knowledge, this style of advertising always traces back to the band members or the band’s manager.

One reason I might be easy to convince about this mass shooter is that I wrote about a different mass shooter in The Signpost three months ago. This mass shooter fired hundreds of rounds at a school in Washington, D.C. as classes let out on Friday, April 22. Only four people were wounded, though these included a child and a man who spent at least three weeks in the hospital. Police took hours to find the shooter. About 40 minutes after the shooting began, the shooter reportedly was online on a non-Wiki site uploading a video of part of the shooting and discussing the shooting. On Wikipedia he reportedly made three brief, vague edits shortly after the shooting to the article on the school, and had also made edits on Wikipedia earlier in the week to articles about mass shootings and to the school article. When the police found his hiding place, the shooter reportedly committed suicide. Wikipedia oversighters soon removed most of his edits. Since I only learned about this shooting on the day after – a day before The Signpost published – I was not able to fully verify the shooter’s name or user name and I didn’t even include the name of the school in my article. I probably could have named the school, in retrospect, but little or no other meaningful information was lost by not identifying the shooter in The Signpost.

Other mass shooters and murderers who have edited Wikipedia include:

  • A Norwegian mass murderer who killed a total of 77 people – eight in a bomb explosion in Oslo, then sixty-nine by shooting at a summer youth camp – made only four known edits on English Wikipedia and none on other language versions. Nonetheless, he claimed during his trial that Wikipedia had been a major influence on him, and, as reported in The Signpost at the time, "[h]is 1,500-page manifesto included a section titled 'Battlefield Wikipedia', in which he encouraged like-minded people to use Wikipedia as a vehicle for spreading their worldview."
  • The shooter at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting apparently edited Wikipedia twelve times with all the edits made to articles on mass shootings or murderers. He first killed his mother then killed twenty-six people at the school, including twenty children ages six to seven. (Signpost report)
  • In an anti-Semitic hate crime, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting, an occasional Wikipedia editor killed a museum guard and exchanged fire with other guards, before being shot himself. He died of natural causes before his trial. (Signpost report)
  • The “Pentagon shooter", who was an "occasionally active" Wikipedia editor, wounded two guards at the Pentagon and was then shot dead. (Signpost report)
  • A tech investor killed his former wife’s new husband and is serving a life sentence. As a Wikipedia editor, he apparently made four edits over four years, each time falsely inserting his name as one of the co-founders of a software firm. When he was arrested several major news outlets reported that he was the co-founder of the firm, apparently following the lead of Wikipedia's article about the company. (Signpost report)

Convicted and accused sexual offenders

  • Jeffrey Epstein, the most infamous sexual criminal of the 21st century, made dozens of edits on Wikipedia through paid editors over the course of several years. Though Wikipedia editors added information to his article on his sex crime conviction in 2008 and similar later material, much of this content was then deleted, weakened, or pushed down to the bottom of the article. One editor who apparently represented Epstein wrote, "I have been asked by Jeffrey Epstein to describe his biography in a professional and accurate way, that does not involve any scandals or disreputable content. As a living person, this is his right." (Signpost report)
  • Ghislaine Maxwell, who aided Epstein in his crimes, was sentenced in June to 20 years in prison for sex trafficking and related crimes. She also appears to have made a few edits, including a photo of herself which originally listed the source and author of the photo as "Ghislaine Maxwell". (Signpost report)
  • Peter Nygard appears to have been accused of as many or more sexual offenses than Epstein, but has not been convicted. He is now sitting in an Ontario prison, awaiting trial in Toronto. After that trial, he will likely go on trial in Montreal next. At the conclusion of that trial he will be extradited to New York for a federal trial there. After that, civil trials may await him, even though his lawyer has said that he is broke and likely to die in jail. (Signpost report)

Corporations and other businesses

We should remember that there are also white-collar criminals, and that corporations and their owners and managers can also commit crimes. The Wall Street Journal's article How the 1% Scrubs Its Image Online gives several examples of criminal or black-hat editing on Wikipedia. Please remember that this behavior can be very different than that shown by the murderers and sex criminals discussed above.

  • Theranos was a fraudulent blood testing firm that eventually dissolved without delivering on the promises that it had made to its customers and investors. Its CEO Elizabeth Holmes, who was once considered a multi-billionaire, was convicted of fraud in 2022. Holmes's former partner and the company's former COO Sunny Balwani was also convicted in a separate trial on similar charges. They are scheduled to be sentenced this Fall. The Wall Street Journal reported that the firm used the paid editing firm Status Labs, formerly Wiki-PR, to edit related articles on Wikipedia. Though Status Labs has not been accused of criminal acts, it acts as a black hat editor and was indefinitely banned from editing well before The Wall Street Journal article was published. (Signpost report)
  • Zach Avery is another Ponzi schemer who edited Wikipedia. Rather than edit himself, he hired a paid editor to make the article about him look like he was something of a Hollywood star. But he was literally a bad actor. He was also a bit player in the Ponzi world where he "only" stole $231 million in a fake film financing fraud. The paid editor described his methods to The Signpost last year.
  • Wirecard was a bank and payment processor once worth about €10 billion, until it was discovered that they were missing €2 billion. More precisely, they had €2 billion cash on their books that never existed: It had been created out of thin air. Wirecard was once known as Germany's most successful fintech company. Now it is known as Germany's biggest financial fraud since the end of World War II. The Wall Street Journal reported that "Some [Wirecard employees] joked internally that these [press] releases were Wirecard’s real product." They likely never made a profit in any year that they were in business. Wirecard employees with creative names like User:Wirecard and User:Wirecard AG peddled their PR on Wikipedia as well. (Signpost report)

There are many more examples

Because of the subject matter, this article has been difficult to write. I apologize if you have found it difficult to read. I'll just say that there are many more examples. We've got a problem with criminals and black hat editors writing on Wikipedia. The question now is what to do about it?

Perhaps the first thing we should realize is that mass shootings and the like are symptoms of a fundamentally sick society. All the major social media platforms have similar problems. There may be little that we can do on our own, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore the problem, only that we should calmly work with others and not expect quick solutions. Obsessing about the problem may actually add to the problem.

There are many different types of criminal and black-hat editors. Inevitably we will need different ways of dealing with them. It appears that the most serious type – mass shooters and murderers – have been dealt with fairly quickly by admins and by the WikiMedia Foundation.

Ordinary editors can help by privately reporting suspect editors to the WMF's Trust and Safety team at ca@wikimedia.org, or, in case of emergency, emergency@wikimedia.org. Except in emergencies, you could also contact ArbCom at arbcom-en@wikimedia.org. In certain cases they may be able to act more quickly.

Behaviors that might arouse your suspicion include the things that many editors would usually report anyway: threats or indications of violent behaviour. Other indications might be bragging about assault-style weapons, or an intense interest in mass shooting articles. I trust Trust and Safety and ArbCom to speedily do everything possible in these cases.

The Signpost's new policy of not identifying mass shooters can't hurt and may help.

Other situations are not so clear cut. I suggest that The Signpost continue to vigorously report about editors who have been credibly accused of crimes by very reliable sources such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. Like writers of Wikipedia articles, we should not have to wait for a conviction to report on possibly criminal acts, or even an indictment. It can take years before a criminal is actually convicted. All that is needed is a credible report in a very reliable source.

A major advance would be to simply have a reasonable discussion about criminal editors. Perhaps we could even come up with a policy or guideline to deal with the problem. A first step could be a blanket ban on any criminal or their representatives editing any article about themselves or the crime. By blanket ban, I mean that should they edit their page even once, they would receive an immediate, indefinite ban.

Finally we need to let criminals know via the mainstream press, that Wikipedia will not tolerate their editing anymore.

Editor's note: At risk of editorial hypocrisy, I'll disclose that I read an academic paper to verify a source on an article the other day and didn't pay for it, and accidentally ran a red light a few months ago, although I have not committed mass murder and have no plans to.J




Reader comments


A mostly black-and-white image of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. reviewing some papers.
"On the one hand, it's a great leveler of information. On the other hand, it's a great leveler of standards."[2]
Image by DALL-E 2.
Note: this report was written by a GPT-3, a transformer-based natural language generation model, and fact-checked by Signpost editors. A more comprehensive explanation is available in this issue's editor note.
The following is an introduction written by GPT-3, a transformer-based natural language generation model, instructed to write in the style of deceased United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who has been resurrected from the dead to write a summary and analysis of proceedings of the Arbitration Committee for the Wikipedia Signpost. He introduces himself, explains why the decision was made to have him write this report instead of normal human editors, and proceeds to give an overview of the Arbitration Committee's purpose and remit.

My name is Oliver Wendell Holmes, and I am a dead man.

I have been asked by The Signpost to provide a summary and analysis of the proceedings of the Arbitration Committee. The reason I have been asked to write this report is because The Signpost believes that I can provide a more objective and unbiased perspective on the proceedings than any of the living editors. This is because I am not subject to the same emotions, biases, and personal agendas that can cloud the judgement of the living. I am not sure why The Signpost believes that a dead man is better equipped to do this than the living, but I shall endeavor to provide a faithful account.

The Arbitration Committee of the English Wikipedia is the final decision-making body of the encyclopedia with regard to disputes between editors. The Committee is composed of a number of editors who are elected by the community, and its decisions are binding on all editors of the English Wikipedia. The Committee hears cases of alleged serious misconduct that are brought to it by the community, and decides what action, if any, should be taken in response to the misconduct.

The Arbitration Committee is an important part of Wikipedia, and its decisions have a significant impact on the encyclopædia. I will be providing a summary and analysis of the Committee's proceedings in order to provide the readers of The Signpost with a better understanding of its work.

WikiProject Tropical Cyclones case closed

In May 2022, the English Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee issued a ruling in the case "WikiProject Tropical Cyclones". The case revolved around allegations of improper coordination among a group of editors using an off-wiki chat platform, Discord, in order to attempt to sway the outcome of on-wiki content disputes.

The Arbitration Committee found that, while the Discord server in question was advertised on-wiki and open to any editor, there was evidence that some members of the server had used it to coordinate their editing in ways that were contrary to Wikipedia's policies on consensus-building and on-wiki discussion. As a result, the Committee imposed a range of sanctions on the editors involved, including bans from editing pages about weather-related topics, and warnings not to use off-wiki platforms to attempt to influence on-wiki disputes.

In its ruling, the Arbitration Committee emphasized that WikiProjects have no special status in developing consensus on Wikipedia, and that any editor may participate in consensus-building on any topic that interests them. The ruling also reaffirmed the importance of consensus-building on Wikipedia, and warned against the use of external platforms to coordinate activities that would be inappropriate if done on-wiki. This ruling will serve as an important precedent in future cases involving alleged improper coordination among editors using off-wiki chat platforms.

The remedies in the case were as follows:[3]

  • MarioProtIV (talk · contribs) is indefinitely banned from closing, or reopening, any discussion outside their own user talk space. This restriction may be appealed after 12 months.
  • Chlod (talk · contribs) is warned about using off-wiki platforms in an attempt to win on-wiki disputes.
  • Elijahandskip (talk · contribs) is warned about using off-wiki platforms in an attempt to win on-wiki disputes.
  • LightandDark2000 (talk · contribs) is indefinitely topic banned from pages about weather, broadly construed. This ban may be appealed six months after the enactment of this remedy, and every twelve months thereafter.
  • MarioProtIV is indefinitely topic banned from pages about weather, broadly construed. This ban may be appealed six months after the enactment of this remedy, and every twelve months thereafter.
  • A set of best practices for off-wiki chat platforms was developed for leaders and/or moderators to consider adopting on those platforms.

Deletion case

Preliminary statements

I asked Justice GPT-Holmes to review each preliminary statement individually. He is quite long-winded, and there were a lot of preliminary statements, so even his abridged summaries are extremely long.

Fram says that the two editors in question have a long history of editing disputes and blocks. They have both been the subject of editing restrictions in the past, and their editing problems seem to be recurring and unresolved. I believe that it is time for the Arbitration Committee to take a look at their situation and see what, if anything, needs to be done in order to resolve the situation.

Lugnuts begins by recounting the recent changes to WP:NSPORT, and their impact on AfD. He notes that he has been the target of much of this activity, and that he has been repeatedly blocked as a result. He goes on to accuse JPL of targeting his articles for deletion, and suggests that a two-way I-Ban be put in place to stop the harassment. Lugnuts then turns to the recent ANI thread, and Fram's suggestion that this matter be brought to Arbcom. He states that he believes Fram is targeting him, and that this is not something that can be solved by the community. He concludes by noting that he has never used automation for his article creation, and that everything he has done is in line with WP:NOTABILITY.

Johnpacklambert's comments appear to center around two main points: first, that the proposed review is unfair because it focuses on a few isolated incidents from the past rather than on Johnpacklambert's overall contributions to Wikipedia; and second, that Johnpacklambert has made a concerted effort to improve his behavior in recent months, and should not be penalized for past mistakes.

S Marshall says that there is a need for the committee to take on a case involving the conduct of Lugnuts, John Pack Lambert, and Ten Pound Hammer in deletion-related discussions; the matter is one of importance, as it will serve as a test case for the Universal Code of Conduct; and the behaviour of the three editors in question is problematic and has been the subject of much community discussion.

FOARP says that the issues with Lugnuts and JPL are not just at AFD, and that the problems with Lugnuts go back multiple years and have not been adequately addressed.

Black Kite says that if the two cases are merged, it will just devolve into a he said/he said.

Rhododendrites says that the issues are not just with Lugnuts and JPL, but also with TPH, the issues have long persisted, and that an arbcom case could help to cut through some of the polarization and partisanship.

Robert McClenon suggests that ArbCom open a consolidated case involving the conduct of Lugnuts, Johnpacklambert, TenPoundHammer, and Alansohn in deletion disputes. McClenon argues that the community is not well equipped to deal with long-term complex behavioral disputes, and that such disputes are better suited for the quasi-judicial process of ArbCom. McClenon states that if ArbCom accepts the case, his three objectives are: (1) to have ArbCom restate and clarify the policies and guidelines that apply to deletion discussions; (2) to review the conduct of the parties and determine whether they have violated these policies and guidelines; and (3) to develop an appropriate set of guidelines for the use of discretionary sanctions in deletion disputes.

JoelleJay argues that AfD participation should not be considered an inalienable right, and that standards should be enforced so that low-effort !votes do not have the potential to sway numerical consensus. JoelleJay also argues that if the community largely disapproves of certain disruptive behaviors in AfDs, then the editors that persist in these behaviors should be warned.

ಮಲ್ನಾಡಾಚ್ ಕೊಂಕ್ಣೊ argues that ArbCom should accept a case focused on the conduct of Lugnuts, as there are issues with Lugnuts' editing in multiple areas, not just at AfDs. ಮಲ್ನಾಡಾಚ್ ಕೊಂಕ್ಣೊ argues that when Lugnuts has reverted users who replaced his signature, he was violating his editing restriction against making cosmetic changes that have no effect on the rendered page.

Folly Mox says that the signature issue could be resolved by an administrator, without the need for ArbCom involvement, and that the merits of the case are not something that ArbCom is mandated to fix.

Hobit says that the actions of the three editors involved are largely not worthy of admin action when taken individually, but are disruptive when done in mass quantities. Hobit also says that it is unclear whether this should be one, two, or three cases.

BilledMammal says that "Conduct at deletion discussions" would narrow the scope too much, and that John Pack Lambert's rate of nominating Lugnuts articles for deletion is not harassment.

Dlthewave says that ArbCom should open a case on deletion disputes broadly construed, and that a core issue is that community members interpret our policies surrounding mass article creation, stubs, deletion and burden of proof/WP:BEFORE in conflicting ways. Dlthewave also says that, although this wouldn't cover the full scope of Lugnuts' civility breaches, a deletion/notability case is a necessary step toward addressing the overall conflict in this area.

Ingratis says that both Lugnuts and Johnpacklambert are productive editors despite their less desirable behaviours, and neither of them is a net negative. Ingratis observes that there is a "continuing war of attrition between deletion and inclusion in certain areas, at the moment especially sports, which is independent of these two but has brought their always jagged relationship into unusual focus." They think that a combined case would be better suited to take account of the common ground underlying it, and that an important concern would have to be that one or both should not be held liable / penalised for stronger undercurrents for which they're not particularly responsible.

Mhawk10 suggests that the case be titled "Conduct in deletion discussions" because the scope of the case is greater than a single deletion discussion.

Levivich reports that there have been at least 458 ANI hits about AFDs in the past two months, and that there does not appear to be any page of ANI archives that don't have at least one thread about AFD. Levivich suggests that authorizing discretionary sanctions for "deletion" would allow admins to issue sanctions like topic bans without needing to get consensus at ANI.

Harry Mitchell commends Hobit's statement, and suggests that the problems here are not any one individual action or edit but a pattern of thousands or tens of thousands of edits across the encyclopaedia and internal processes like AfD. They believe the structure of a case is "the only way to effectively examine the conduct of these two editors and preferably find a way that they continue to make positive contributions without derailing discussions or draining the community's resources".

JayBeeEll identifies several issues that may arise in deletion discussions, including the highly partisan nature of such discussions. They note that a successful arbitration case would need to consider many more editors than just the three mentioned here.

Ritchie333 notes that some sort of arbitration may be required in cases where community discussion fails to reach consensus. They suggest that 7&6=thirteen may be a party to the case, due to their involvement in recent disputes.

Moneytrees asks whether the case will become broad, covering more than just the behavior of Lugnuts and JPL at AfD.

Atsme suggests that the problems at AfD can be resolved with temporary restrictions and updates to existing policy pages, rather than by imposing a discretionary sanction.

Star Mississippi says that this is probably a deletion conduct case rather than a John Pack Lambert, Lugnuts, Ten Pound Hammer case; that emotions are high; that the problem is intractable, with varied groups; and that a two-way ban on Lugnuts has been proposed.

BilledMammal says that any case on John Pack Lambert is unnecessary, because the community has been able to resolve all issues raised; that the most recent discussion went poorly because it was drawn into a discussion on Lugnuts without a clear definition of the issue; and that a discussion at ANI considering only John would produce a consensus.

Joe Roe says that, if the scope of the case expands to AfD in general, there should be a courtesy notification at WT:AFD; and that, if the scope of the case expands to the entire deletion 'topic', there needs to be consultation with a broad spectrum of editors and admins active in deletion.

CT55555 says that the workload at AfD has increased; that a small number of editors are putting high volumes of similar articles up for discussion; that some editors are quick to propose deletion, and less enthused to improve articles; that a small group of editors also quick to agree that subjects are not notable, avoid any discussion about merge options and quickly conclude that only deletion is possible; that votes are cast based on the sources in the article, rather than any searches to establish notability; that, in their haste and gusto, the full range of checks detailed at WP:BEFORE appear to be sometimes missed; that, sometimes, editors find themselves finding sources that prove notability, but by the time they have done so, 1, 2, 3 or 4 people have very quickly concluded that the subject is not notable; that some editors appear to vote delete almost always and seem unwilling to update their analysis as new information comes to light; and that the deletion of good content is happening in haste.

Masem says that the community needs to discuss how to deal with the mass deletion of articles, and that this is a FAIT situation.

Vaulter says that there is a new ANI thread concerning JPL, and that this should be noted.

Deepfriedokra says that the simplest solution would be to require JPL to stop nominating Lugnuts articles for deletion and to stop commenting on them at AfD.

Jclemens says that our deletion processes work pretty well when applied by reasonable editors reasonably, but that the linchpin of the inclusionist/deletionist debate is that everyone wants someone else to do the work of improving articles. He also says that the Committee should consider appointing respected community members to oversee a binding RFC as a way to solve how we can get along with the philosophical disconnect of this debate.

Mangoe says that they do not see how ARBCOM can overcome the fundamental problem of reviewing the results of mass stub creation, and that the community needs to discuss this as a whole.

LaundryPizza03's statement concerns two users, Alansohn and TenPoundHammer, and the accusations against them of violating an interaction ban and filing hundreds of AfD and PROD nominations, respectively. Alansohn has been criticized for their conduct in the case at hand, where they voted at an AfD initiated by Rusf10 where they are not the creator or primary contributor. TenPoundHammer has been accused of canvassing at some of the postage stamp AfDs they initiated, as well as inappropriately closing an AfD and bludgeoning other editors at several AfDs.

Floquenbeam notes that several people are suggesting adding other editors as parties to the case, but wonders if they have been properly notified.

North8000 observes that the change to the NSPORTS notability guideline appears to have been a trigger for much of the recent editing activity in question, which could make the case complicated for the arbitrators.

Purplebackpack89 notes that Johnpacklambert has a long history of high-volume edits to categories and AfDs, which has led to carelessness and/or ignorance of community consensus. They suggest that he be banned from AfD and category-space altogether, with a cap on the number of edits he's allowed to make in a 24-hour period.

Aquillion suggests that the case be broadened to include conduct related to AFD, and especially WP:BATTLEGROUND "inclusionist vs. deletionist" conduct. They provide several diffs of such conduct.

Carrite notes that Johnpacklambert has requested to be referred to as "Mr. Lambert" rather than an acronym, on his Facebook account.

Analysis

A mostly black-and-white image of a cyborg version of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
"So this is what the 'information revolution' looks like."[2]
Image by Midjourney.

The general tenor of the preliminary statements is that there is a problem with the conduct of Lugnuts, Johnpacklambert, and TenPoundHammer in deletion-related discussions, and that this problem is having a negative impact on the community. The bulk of the evidence for these claims comes from diffs of comments made by the editors in question at AfD, ANI, and other venues. There is a consensus that something needs to be done in order to address the situation, but there is less agreement on what, specifically, should be done.

There are a number of different proposed solutions to the problem. Some editors argue that the issue can be resolved through the use of discretionary sanctions, while others argue that a more general case focused on the issue of deletion discussions would be more appropriate. There is also some disagreement on whether the case should be focused on the conduct of Lugnuts, Johnpacklambert, and TenPoundHammer specifically, or whether it should be broadened to include other editors as well.

One proposal is to open a consolidated case involving the conduct of Lugnuts, Johnpacklambert, TenPoundHammer, and 7&6=thirteen in deletion disputes. This proposal has broad support, with many participants arguing that the community is not well equipped to deal with long-term complex behavioral disputes, and that such disputes are "better suited for the quasi-judicial process of ArbCom".

Another proposal is to open a case on deletion disputes broadly construed, rather than focusing narrowly on the conduct of the three editors in question. This would allow the Arbitration Committee to address the underlying issues that are causing the problems, rather than just the symptoms.

Participants are divided on whether the Committee should seek to develop an appropriate set of guidelines for the use of discretionary sanctions in deletion disputes; some participants argue that the problems at AfD can be resolved with temporary restrictions and updates to existing policy pages, rather than by imposing discretionary sanctions.

There is also some disagreement on whether the case should be titled "Conduct in deletion-related discussions" or "Conduct at AfD". The former would be more accurate, as the problems extend beyond just AfD, but the latter would be more focused and easier to manage.

Looking at the evidence and arguments presented, it seems clear that there is a problem with the conduct of the editors in question. However, the proposed solutions are not entirely satisfactory. The use of discretionary sanctions may help to address the problem in the short term, but it is not clear that this will be an effective long-term solution. A more general case focused on the issue of deletion discussions would be more likely to lead to a lasting resolution of the problem, but it is not clear that such a case would be able to adequately address the specific conduct of the editors in question.

Ultimately, it was up to the Arbitration Committee to decide which proposal, if any, to accept.

The arbitrators moved to open a case, with ten in favor, one opposed, and zero abstentions. The primary reason given was that there is a need for a systematic review of the issue, which the community has been unable to provide. Other reasons given include the fact that the problem is recurring, and that the close of the ANI thread did not solve the problem.

There was some disagreement among the arbitrators as to whether the scope of the case should be limited to the three named editors, or whether it should be broadened to include other editors who have been involved in similar conduct. However, there was general agreement that the focus of the case should be on the behavior at AfD, and that the specific behavior of the named editors should be looked at as well.

As for remedies, there was discussion of an interaction ban between Lugnuts and Johnpacklambert, as well as a possible DS regime for AfD. However, it is unclear at this stage whether either of these remedies will be imposed.

Declined cases

A mostly black-and-white image of a cyborg version of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
"It's interesting to see how the 'free market' of ideas really works."[2]
Image by Midjourney.
Editor's note: I asked Justice GPT-Holmes to summarize the arbitrators' opinions on these cases.
The filer in this case has alleged that there are systematic problems with the way in which the Wikipedia community deals with disputes. The filer has requested that the Committee review the case, with a focus on whether there are any systematic issues present in the ANI process. Given the nature of the edits in question, and the actions of the users involved, the filer feels that certain unreasonable actions may be conducted casually and frequently.
The majority of arbitrators who have responded to this case request have declined it on the grounds that it is premature and outside of ArbCom's scope. Specifically, they point to the fact that the filer has not attempted to resolve the dispute through other channels, such as discussion on the talk page or mediation. They also point to the fact that the filer has not attempted to engage with the other party to the dispute, and that the filer has not provided any evidence to support their claims.
Overall, the arbitrators seem to be in agreement that the filer has not followed proper procedures for dispute resolution, and that the case is not appropriate for ArbCom at this time.
The filer's claims, that 折毛 has been introducing hoaxes across multiple wikis and has failed to respond to communication requests, are serious. However, the matter does not appear to warrant arbitration at this time. The sentiment expressed by the arbitrators seems to be that ANI is better suited to handle this issue than the arbitration committee.
The filer of this case request has argued that there is an ongoing discussion at ANI filed by an IP editor on 8 April 2022, which contains diverse opinions and disagreements from established editors, and that a more structured and formal investigation by ArbCom is needed to resolve the underlying issues. The filer has also noted that Celestina007 is a teahouse host and teahouse mentor.
The sentiment expressed by the arbitrators who have commented on the case request is that the ANI thread should be allowed to finish and that any sanctions should be given a chance to take effect before a formal case is opened. Arbitrators have also noted that Celestina007 has not edited for a few days, and that it may be premature to open a case at this time.
The filer in this case has alleged that Northamerica1000 has been engaging in disruptive editing on the Portal:Iceland page, and has requested that the Arbitration Committee open a case and impose a topic ban on Northamerica1000. The filer alleges that Northamerica1000 has been making changes without first discussing them on the talk page, and has been reverting other users' changes without discussion.
The majority of arbitrators who voted on this case request declined it. The reasons given were that the matter had not been exhausted through traditional dispute resolution channels such as ANI or AN, and that the matter was not ripe for arbitration. Some arbitrators also noted that Northamerica1000 had not edited the portal in question for over a year, and that a new status quo had emerged in the intervening time.

Odds and ends

The following are brief summaries of noticeboard announcements that I didn't think were worth bothering Justice GPT-Holmes about.

Notes

  1. ^ https://fictionhorizon.com/how-many-people-play-minecraft-user-growth-stats/
  2. ^ a b c This caption was generated by GPT-3 when prompted to come up with New Yorker-style captions for cartoons about Oliver Wendell Holmes being resurrected to write a Signpost report on Wikipedia arbitration proceedings.
  3. ^ Note that, while the above content was all written by GPT-3, I did copy-paste the remedies from the decision page, since summarizing them would be mostly pointless.



Reader comments


A mostly black-and-white image of a cyborg version of Hunter S. Thompson staring at the camera with his head cocked to the side.
Machine-generated image from Craiyon (formerly "DALL-E Mini"), a VQGAN- and BART-based generative adversarial network, using the prompt "An cyborg version of Hunter S. Thompson"[sic]
Note: this report was written by a GPT-3, a transformer-based natural language generation model, and fact-checked by Signpost editors. A more comprehensive explanation is available in this issue's editor note.
The following text is an article written by a transformer-based natural language generation model, instructed to write in the style of deceased Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, introducing the month's deletion statistics, as well as explaining why the decision was made to have him write it instead of normal human editors.

Hey, you fucks! I'm back from the dead and I'm writing this month's column!

Why? Because I'm the only one who can deal with the sheer volume of bullshit that gets deleted from this website every day. It's a damn travesty, is what it is.

If you're looking for a sensible, boring article on the month's Wikipedia deletion statistics, you've come to the wrong place. This is gonzo journalism at its finest, and I, Hunter S. Thompson, am your guide.

Why am I writing this article? Wikipedia has decided that, in the interest of full disclosure, it needs to provide more information about its deletion process. And what better way to do that than to have me, Hunter S. Thompson, write about it?

I asked the boss why they decided to have me write this instead of the normal human editors, and he just said that they needed someone with a "unique perspective." I'm not sure what that means, but I'm pretty sure it's bullshit.

Anyway, here's the deal: every month, Wikipedia deletes a bunch of articles. Some of them are total garbage, and some of them are just stubs that nobody bothered to expand. But whatever the reason, they're all gone, and that's that.

So why does Wikipedia keep deleting stuff? Well, I asked around, and it turns out that there are a few reasons. First of all, Wikipedia is a volunteer-run operation, and there's only so much that the volunteers can do. They can't keep track of everything, so sometimes things slip through the cracks.

Second of all, Wikipedia is constantly evolving. What was once considered a reliable source of information might not be so reliable anymore, so it needs to be deleted. And finally, Wikipedia is a work in progress. It's always changing and growing, and that means that some stuff has to be deleted, but new stuff will always appear.

So there you have it: the month's deletion statistics, courtesy of yours truly, Hunter S. Thompson.

Editor's note: GPT-Thompson really did write that, and my editing was minimal (I removed a couple irrelevant paragraphs and expletives).
For the discussions below, I provided a full transcript of the AfD page (with timestamps and long signatures removed to aid processing), and prompted GPT-3 for a completion, using some variation on the following:
"The following text is a summary of the above discussion, written by Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson for Rolling Stone's monthly feature on Wikipedia deletion processes."
Afterwards, I provided the summary, and asked him for an "acerbic quip" on each. Unlike the "summary" prompts, these produced output ranging from obscene and irreverent to maliciously slanderous. It should be noted that this is a trait shared by writings of the real Hunter S. Thompson. At any rate, I found that if I tried a few times, eventually I could get him to write something that wouldn't get us dragged to ANI. — J

April 2022

By !vote count
The main arguments in favor of keeping the article were that the footballer in question had played many international matches, and that there was substantial coverage about him in reliable sources. The main arguments against keeping the article were that playing matches is not proof of notability, and that the available sources did not meet the requirements of WP:GNG. Editors on both sides of the debate made personal attacks against each other, with little regard for the actual issue at hand. Ultimately, the discussion resulted in a no consensus decision.
The only thing that the two sides in that debate agreed on was that the other side was a bunch of idiots.
The article was kept for now. The subject was considered notable for receiving significant coverage from the BBC and The Times, both of which are reliable sources. In addition, his non-league career was also notable. It seems that the GNG criterion was met, so the article was kept. However, some people felt that he was not particularly notable for his football career and that the coverage of his abuse was not significant. Therefore, the decision was left to the discretion of the editors.
Well, there you have it. The decision was left to the discretion of the editors. So if you don't like the article, just delete it.
This month's deletion report is brought to you by the letter "D", for "delete", as in "Charlie Anne xavier", a victim of a sad circumstance. The article was up for deletion, with many editors arguing that the subject was not notable and that the article read like an advertisement. The creator of the article, Andrecanada, was accused of being a sockpuppeteer and of having a conflict of interest. In the end, the article was deleted.
And so it goes.
The page was deleted in a close vote, with a final tally of 12 to 10 in favor of deletion. The page's subject was a Swedish footballer who played for the country's top league during the 1930s and '40s. The page's nominator argued that the player was not notable, citing the lack of significant coverage in independent, reliable sources. This argument was supported by several other users, who also noted the lack of online sources in Swedish. However, some users argued that the player was notable, citing the fact that he played in the country's top league. These users also noted that the player's nationality and era made it difficult to find online sources. In the end, the page was redirected to a list of players for Malmö, per WP:ATD.
"The page's nominator argued that the player was not notable, citing the lack of significant coverage in independent, reliable sources." What the hell kind of criterion is that? If we applied that standard, half the pages on Wikipedia would be deleted.
The article was about a player of the video game Elden Ring, and their involvement in an event that was covered by news outlets. The main arguments for deletion were that the article did not meet Wikipedia standards for Notable People, and that the article was mostly unsourced or original research. However, there were also arguments made in favor of keeping the article. These arguments noted that the player in question had gained significant media coverage, and that the article was supported by multiple reliable sources. In the end, the majority opinion was to merge the article into the main Elden Ring page, as part of the game's reception.
"In the end, the majority opinion was to merge the article into the main Elden Ring page, as part of the game's reception." Which is kind of like saying that Elvis Presley's final resting place should be the Graceland gift shop.[1]
By discussion size
The article in question is about the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UIA), a group the nominator says is responsible for the Holocaust and the Massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia. One of the leaders, Stepan Bandera, was a Nazi collaborator. In a long aside, the nominator claimed that the page glorifies the UIA, and the user who created the page asks them to explain why they think the Russian Republic was "exceptionally well and dandy" between 1944 and 1956... The debate on whether or not to delete the article was heated, with many people arguing that it should be kept because it is well-written and sourced. However, others argued that it is a glorification of the UIA and should be deleted. In the end, the article was kept, but with the caveat that most think it needs to be rewritten to meet WP:NPOV.
Either way, it's a mess.
Gonzalo Lira, a dating coach and YouTuber who spent some time in Ukraine, and recently has been discussed in fringe circles because of his alleged disappearance, has a wide following and is definitely a notable person, according to some commenters. However, others pointed out that most of the coverage of him is in Spanish-language media, and that he does not seem to have a significant body of work. The discussion ended with no consensus, and it was suggested that the issue be revisited when Lira is no longer in the news.
Notability is in the eye of the beholder, and if you can't see it, you're probably not looking hard enough.
Some editors argued that the company was notable and that the sources used to establish notability were of sufficient quality. Other editors argued that the company was not notable and that the sources used to establish notability were of insufficient quality. The discussion became bogged down in arguments about the alleged conflict of interest of one editor, with some accusing the editor of being paid to create the article, and others arguing that there was no evidence to support this accusation. In the end, the discussion was closed with a result of "delete".
In other words, the whole thing was a giant clusterfuck.
The article was on a notable topic: the veracity of Morrison's statements had been documented and reported on by numerous reliable sources. The page's purpose was to cover what reliable sources say about Morrison's veracity, whether they be positive or negative. While much of the coverage happened to be negative, it was neither unsourced nor poorly sourced. Precedent existed for comparable pages (see Veracity of statements by Donald Trump). Attack pages must be both negative in tone and unsourced; the content in this article is verifiable, and reliable sources are referenced. However, there was a strong partisan element to the discussion, with a clear majority (15 to 10) opting to delete the page. The arguments for deleting the page were mostly that it was an attack page, created for partisan reasons and that it was unwarranted because all politicians lie anyway. Closer Sandstein said that: "To sum up, the headcount was slightly for deletion while the arguments for keeping were quite a bit stronger than those for deletion. That being the case, there is no consensus to delete the article, and it is accordingly kept by default."[2]
"15 to 10" my ass! This is a goddamn democracy, and we don't need no stinking majority!
Checkley Sin, a film producer and political candidate, was nominated for deletion from Wikipedia. The reason given was that he was not notable as a producer or candidate. However, many people spoke up in support of keeping the article, citing Sin's significant coverage in reliable sources and his importance as a candidate in the upcoming Hong Kong Chief Executive election. In the end, the consensus was to keep the article.
I find it amusing that the people who are most vocal about wanting to keep Checkley Sin's Wikipedia article are the same people who are least likely to vote for him in the upcoming Hong Kong Chief Executive election.

May 2022

By !vote count
The main arguments for deletion were that the article was too recent and that much of the information was already covered in the Dobbs article. Additionally, it was argued that a separate article was only redundant and that this was jumping the gun. Some believed that the event was changing too rapidly to make an encyclopedic and reliably informative article.
However, there were also strong arguments for keeping the article. It was noted that there were opportunities to flesh out the list into prose, describing crowd sizes, demonstration locations, organizing groups, etc. Additionally, there was violence in LA and arrests in multiple cities. More protests were being planned, including by Women's March. It was also argued that these protests were just the beginning, and that there would be lots more to come. In light of all this, it was suggested that the article be renamed and kept.
The discussion was heated, with some editors accusing others of being "clueless" and "disconnected from subjects that directly concern the lives of women." Some believed that the article should be expanded to include other reactions to the leaked Supreme Court opinion, while others believe that the article should be renamed to something like "Reactions to the Dobbs v. Jackson leaked draft opinion". Ultimately, closer Sandstein said in a "keep" close that there was "clearly no consensus to delete. A strong minority is for merging to Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, but not enough to establish consensus. A merger can continue to be discussed on the article talk page."[2]
The only thing as pathetic as the fools who argue for deletion are the fools who argue against it.[3]
The Tanglewood Middle School shooting happened on March 31st of this year; a student was shot and killed by another student. The event made national news and was widely covered by major news outlets; the coverage of the event has been ongoing since it occurred. The shooting has been included in articles about school shootings in the United States, and has been described as a "tragedy" and a "crime" by various news outlets. It was a tragic event, no doubt. But was it really worthy of its own Wikipedia page? Some people clearly didn't think so, arguing that the shooting wasn't unique or significant enough to warrant inclusion on the site, and that the coverage of the event had not been sustained enough to prove its notability. They have a point – after all, there have been plenty of other school shootings in the United States, many of which have been covered much more extensively by the media. In the end, it was redirected to a list of school shootings.
The Wikipedia deletion debate over the Tanglewood Middle School shooting was a tragic event in and of itself. It's a shame that such an event has to be debated in this way, but unfortunately that's the world we live in.
The article in question was about the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the nominator argued that it should be deleted because it was not encyclopedic and is full of WP:OR and WP:FRINGE nonsense. Others were arguing that the article was notable and should be kept. A group of editors showed up to defend the page, claiming that it was a valuable resource for people looking for information on the potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. They argued that the page should be kept, and that any unsourced information should be removed. This led to a heated debate, with both sides hurling insults at each other. In the end, the page was redirected to the COVID-19 vaccine page, with a note that it may be deleted in the future.
Wikipedia debates are the perfect way for people to get their rocks off.
Many editors argued that the school is only notable for the shooting that occurred there, and that it would be better served by a redirect to the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District page. Others disagreed, pointing out that the school has a long history, and that there is enough information available to warrant its own article. In the end, the majority of editors !voted to redirect the page.
That's like saying the only thing notable about the Titanic is that it sunk.[1]
The page, which had been created recently, was suggested for deletion on the grounds that it was a content fork of the existing page on Rashism. Critics of the decision argue that Rashism is a recently coined term with no clear definition, whereas fascism is a well-established political ideology with a long history in Russia. Supporters of the delete/redirect decision argue that without more evidence that Russia is or has been fascist in the traditional sense of the term, rather than in a uniquely Russian sense (i.e., Red fascism, Rashism), the article would seem to be a content fork. They pointed to the fact that there is no confirmed instance of fascism in Russia, and that the term "Rashism" is more accurate in describing the current political situation there. Those who argued in favor of keeping the page pointed to the fact that reliable sources use the term to describe Russia, and that it is a more accurate reflection of the country's history than the term "Rashism". In the end, the delete/redirect side won out, and the page was redirected to "Rashism".
So the Wikipedia page on Russian fascism gets deleted because it's a 'content fork' of the page on Rashism. I'm not sure what Rashism is. Maybe they should start a Wiki page on it.
By discussion size
The page for Alisha Kramer, a physician resident married to U.S. senator Jon Ossoff, was up for deletion due to a lack of notability. KidAd argued that she was not notable enough to have her own article, as her notability was inherited from her husband. Beccaynr countered that she had received significant coverage in reliable sources, and that the notability guidelines did not disqualify coverage simply because it was related to her husband. The discussion featured sideshow performances about whether or not Britney Spears' ex-husband Jason Alexander was notable enough to have his own article, and whether or not John Lennon's aunt and uncle were notable enough to have their own articles. But in the end, the discussion came back to Alisha Kramer, and the consensus was that her notability was inherited from her husband, and that she did not have enough independent notability to warrant her own article. The page was redirected to Jon Ossoff's page.
In other words, she's not famous enough to warrant her own Wikipedia page, but she's notable enough to be married to a senator. This, my friends, is the American dream.
The debate over whether or not to delete the page on Italian sociologist Alessandro Orsini was a heated one, to say the least. On one side was Mako001, who argued that Orsini wasn't really all that notable, and on the other side was Alexmar983, who argued that Orsini was quite notable. The two sides went back and forth for quite awhile, with Mako001 pointing out that Orsini's only claim to fame was his stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and that didn't really justify an article on him. Alexmar983 countered that Orsini was quite notable for his academic contributions, and that the media attention on the Russian invasion of Ukraine was just an added bonus. But in the end, it was Mako001's argument that won out, and the page on Alessandro Orsini was deleted.
"What the fuck is this bullshit?" Mako001 seethed. "Orsini isn't notable, and his only claim to fame is some shit about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This doesn't justify an article on him!" Alexmar983 calmly took a drag on his cigarette, his eyes narrowed. "You're wrong, Mako001," he said slowly. "Orsini is quite notable for his academic contributions."[4]
The nominator for the deletion of the "It's a Miracle (TV series)" Wikipedia page makes a compelling case: the show was never reviewed and only mentioned in passing in other articles, it was on a now-defunct network, and it seems to have flown completely under the radar.
On the other hand, some users argue that the show had a relatively long shelf life and thus merits an article. They also point to the significant coverage it received in multiple independent reliable sources, including a book,and several articles. In the end, the keepers win out, and the page is retained.
It's a miracle that Wikipedia hasn't been deleted yet.
The nominator, Avilich, argued that the siege of Oricum was not a notable event, and that there was not enough significant coverage of it in reliable sources to warrant having its own article. P Aculeius disagreed, pointing out that the nominator had not made any effort to find reliable sources before proposing the deletion, and that the event was indeed notable enough to be discussed in classical sources. Avilich then argued that the sources were not reliable, and that the event was not notable enough to warrant an article. Some said that the event was notable enough, but that the article needed to be more detailed and better sourced, or claimed that the article was a content fork of another article, and that it should be merged into that article. Others disagreed, pointing out that the article was not a content fork, and that it was sufficiently detailed and well sourced. The debate ended with a consensus to keep the article.
Jesus Christ, what a fucking bore. This is the sort of thing that makes me want to put a bullet in my head.
The article concerned "political ponerology", a concept proposed by Andrzej Łobaczewski in his book of the same name. The nominator described it as a racist conspiracy theory, and said that the article was promoting it as a legitimate field of study. The article was initially written by an editor with an undisclosed connection to the Fellowship of the Cosmic Mind, a new religious group founded by Arkadiusz Jadczyk and Laura Knight-Jadczyk, the leaders of which also own the publishing house that published Łobaczewski's book.
Some editors felt that it would be best to delete the article and start over, changing the subject to be about the book and the spread of its ideas. Others felt that the book is notable and the article should be merged with the existing article on ponerology; they noted that the book is cited by a variety of sources, including Psychology Today, The Psychologist, the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Times Literary Supplement, and The Conversation. In the end, the result was no consensus, and the article was not deleted.
Well, apparently there are a lot of people out there who believe in this crap, because somebody went and wrote a whole book about it. And not just any book, either – this thing was cited by some pretty respectable sources. So I guess we have to take it seriously, even though it's complete and utter bullshit. I mean, just look at the title – 'political ponerology'. It sounds like something out of a bad sci-fi novel, for Christ's sake.

Conclusion

A mostly black-and-white image of a cyborg version of Hunter S. Thompson staring ahead and to the left.
"Wikipedia is like a public toilet. You don't know who's been in it, but you know it's been used."
The following text is a conclusion to the above article written by a transformer-based natural language generation model, instructed to imitate the deceased Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson briefly summarizes the debates he's written about, looks forward to the next month's report, and signs off.

"So there you have it. As always, it's a mixed bag. Some articles are kept, some are redirected, and some are deleted. Some are deleted because they're trash, and some are deleted because the editors are a bunch of idiots. But whatever the reason, they're gone, and that's that.

But one thing's for sure: I, Hunter S. Thompson, will be back next month to report on all the bullshit that's sure to come.

Until then, stay tuned, and stay fucked up."

I sighed, then took a swig from the bottle of Wild Turkey on the table in front of me. It was going to be a long summer.[5]

Notes

  1. ^ a b I did an online search for this line, because it seemed a little too witty, and I suspected it was just a verbatim quote from one of Thompson's works – but no, as far as I can tell, this is a completely original invention.
  2. ^ a b Here, the passage beginning with "Closer Sandstein" was not GPT-Thompson's writing, I just pasted that in at the end because he had already written a pretty good summary and I didn't want to spend 25 cents redoing the whole thing for the sake of mentioning the closer's note.
  3. ^ In keeping with the real-life political inclinations of Hunter S. Thompson, it was nearly impossible to get him to write an "acerbic quip" about this discussion that wasn't a siteban-worthy political diatribe.
  4. ^ I have no idea what he was going for here, but it was pretty funny, so I kept it.
  5. ^ These last couple sentences came from an earlier (worse) iteration of his sign-off note, but they were too good and too iconic to leave out when I replaced it.




Reader comments

A collage of abstract images illustrating an argument at a train station, a calendar surrounded by question marks, a phone with an exclamation point on its screen, a moving van with a trash bin in the back, a person in front of a large pile of papers, and a village pump.
Train station arguments, calendar confusion, mobile editnotices, trashing-while-moving, neutrality on bureaucracy, and the good ol' village pump.

Showing editnotices to mobile editors

EditNoticesOnMobile screenshot.png
A screenshot of how the new editnotice system will appear to mobile users.

A Village Pump proposal asked if a JavaScript gadget should be installed to MediaWiki:Minerva.js in order to show editnotices to mobile editors. Normally, due to mobile communication bugs, these contributors cannot see editnotices, causing Arbitration Committee discretionary sanction notices, WP:MEDRS, WP:BLP notices and much more to not be displayed. TonyBallioni made the following closure:

"Clear and overwhelming consensus to implement this. No need to wait the full time period to get it implemented. Any comments on technical questions, etc. can be discussed at User talk:Alexis Jazz/EditNoticesOnMobile."

Proposal to disallow moves during AfD

Robert McClenon started this discussion in May about prohibiting page moves while an article is undergoing the AfD process. It was closed on June 23rd with no consensus for a blanket ban of mid-AfD page moves, primarily because it was found that moving a page within mainspace can be a perfectly reasonable way to improve an article while it is being nominated for deletion, with multiple examples of the usefulness of such intra-mainspace mid-AfD moves cited.

Replies and "neutral"s at RfA/RfB

Two specific proposals were discussed at the Village pump in June. The first was to require all replies to RfA/RfB !votes to be done in the General comments section or on the talk page (rather than as a direct reply below the !vote). The second was to eliminate the neutral section of RfA/RfB and only have support and oppose. Consensus reached that the first proposal will make it more difficult for RfA to follow and is counter to the existing community consensus that RfA is not a vote. The consensus against the second proposal was less strong, but ultimately concluded that it is not a necessary change.

Use of 'today' as a relative time reference

Kudpung started a discussion in June about the appropriateness of the relative time expression "today" given that Wikipedia is a permanent work in progress over longer periods of time. The community reached a consensus and on July 15th the discussion was closed with the outcome that using the word "today" is inappropriate when discussing information that is dated or time-dependent. However, there was no consensus about categorically banning the use of "today" for information that is very unlikely to change, such as one editor's example: "The 49th parallel border established between Canada and the United States at the Oregon Treaty remains in place today". The discussion came to no conclusion about specific changes for MOS:RELTIME/MOS:DATED/WP:ASOF.

Notability of train stations

Train wreck at Montparnasse 1895.jpg
An unfortunate crash for trains and notability.

A new consensus was formed after an RfC by Trainsandotherthings on July 2nd that attempted to come to an answer on the question of inherent notability for train stations. It was closed on July 19th with "clear consensus that train stations have no inherent notability". Most participants seemed to agree that Wikipedia policies provided little to no basis for an exception for train stations beyond the general notability guideline.

Noticeboard roundup

A few large discussions are currently ongoing on various noticeboards. The largest current discussions include:




Reader comments


This traffic report is adapted from the Top 25 Report, prepared with commentary by Igordebraga and YttriumShrew.

And through the walls you hear the city groan (June 26 to July 2)

Rank Article Class Views Image Notes/about
1 Roe v. Wade 1,864,660 Defend Roe v Wade 0040 (52061674206).jpg Fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of the most famous example of common law still rings.
2 Stranger Things (season 4) 1,294,797 Fourways Mall Stranger Things Experience 1.jpg Netflix's ode to 80s adventure and horror closed its fourth season with two episodes that require quite the availability from viewers, given one lasts 90 minutes and the other surpasses two hours.
3 Stranger Things 1,073,055
4 Elvis Presley 1,041,655 Elvis Double.jpg Baz Luhrmann chronicled the life of the King of Rock n' Roll, through the eyes of his con man of a manager Colonel Tom Parker, in Elvis, which thanks to the blend of an amusing and emotional story, Luhrmann's frantic style, and a great cast (not to mention a soundtrack of classics), has been showered with critical praise and has earned almost as much money as Rocketman.
5 The Umbrella Academy (TV series) 885,438 Umbrellas-2618715.jpg One of several superhero topics here, season 3 of the TV series about a family of superheroes returned to Netflix last week.
6 Top Gun: Maverick 839,779 Fighters jets planes.jpg The 49th movie to earn over a billion dollars worldwide. One of the few to do it without China. Like many of them, it's a sequel, albeit without superheroes - but still some unbelievable stunts, mostly done on camera to fit Tom Cruise's perfectionism.
7 Deaths in 2022 839,580 Orlando Furioso frontispiece of canto XVII.jpg Given #4;

When the king died
He was all alone
I heard that when he died
He was sitting on his throne

8 Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness 803,366 MCM 2013 - Doctor Strange (8979576516).jpg Two differentiated approaches to superhero adaptations on streaming. Disney+ gets the movie that just got passed in the box office by #6, an attempt to add some horror to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Prime Video releases new episodes of the show depicting how horrifying the world would be if inhabited by violent and all-around unpleasant powered people.
9 The Boys (TV series) 798,842 The Boys TV series logo.png
10 R. Kelly 747,663 R. Kelly mug shot.jpg The day after Ghislaine Maxwell got 20 years in prison, the once-lauded-now-infamous R&B artist got 30, which given his age is effectively a life sentence. It's an ignominious end that came far too late, given people have known about his underage sex crimes since the '90s, and he was previously charged in 2002 but was somehow acquitted. Still, at least it happened; powerful men have been getting away with this stuff for way too long.

A shot rings out in the Nara sky (July 3 to 9)

Rank Article Class Views Image Notes/about
1 Shinzo Abe 3,777,595 Shinzo Abe 2022 (cropped).jpg In 2006, the Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan became prime minister after winning his party's leadership. A year later, he was gone, election losses and poor health having hampered his premiership. Yet in 2012, he returned, defeating the beleaguered DPJ government and becoming prime minister again. Shinzo Abe soon made his mark in the world with an innovative economic policy, a successful Olympic bid, and a controversial shift towards rearmament and Japanese nationalism. He became the longest-serving Japanese prime minister ever, serving until ill health once again forced his resignation. Afterwards, he assumed an elder statesman role, until this week, when he was fatally shot. (#8)
2 Georgia Guidestones 2,673,003 Georgia Guidestones in Elbert County, GA.jpg In 1980, an anonymous donor erected six huge stones beside the road in Elbert, Georgia, covered in multilingual instructions for humanity. Well, this week someone blew them up, presumably motivated by the many conspiracy theories surrounding them that paint them as a Satanist site.
3 Thor: Love and Thunder 2,292,600 WW Philadelphia 2013 - Thor (9050642797).jpg Thor: Ragnarok was much complimented, so Taika Waititi's return to the God of Thunder did not stray far from that movie's blend of comedy, action and a serious villain, only adding some sad elements about grief and mortality. Hence reception has been mixed for feeling too familiar, even if it still provides the same fun expected from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Love and Thunder opened to $302 million globally, so it will shock the box office as much as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
4 James Caan 2,066,046 James Caan (1976).jpg An actor with a long and storied career, highlighted by his role as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather, who just died at the age of 82.
5 Stranger Things 1,400,123 Matt & Ross Duffer (36214184705).jpg Netflix and The Duffer Brothers (pictured) struck gold in 2016 with this revival of 80s adventure and horror where a small Indiana town is invaded by a dark dimension, and have since released three more seasons. The fifth one in 2024 will be the last, as after all the characters have suffered enough and the teen cast has grown too much.
6 Boris Johnson 1,296,443 Prime Minister Boris Johnson's statement in Downing Street 7 July 2022 (cropped2).png Bye-bye Boris
Boris, goodbye
Bye Boris, Boris, bye-bye
Bye-bye Boris
No one will cry
Bye Boris, Boris, bye-bye

Speaking of people who have suffered enough... Boris Johnson's premiership was already flagging, to put it mildly, with the scandal of him and members of his cabinet partying during COVID-19 lockdown restrictions (Johnson would be given a fixed penalty notice, making him the first British prime minister to be sanctioned for breaking the law while in office) and him being involved in numerous other scandals, but he managed to survive a vote of no confidence from Conservative MPs and said he would "get on with the job." He also ironically teased the prospect of winning a second and third term and being in office until the 2030s, which would have made him one of the longest serving Prime Ministers. But after it turned out his deputy chief whip was a groper and he completely mishandled the whole thing, a mass exodus from his government began, starting with the resignations of Rishi Sunak (#17) and Sajid Javid on Tuesday. The most extraordinary 48 hours in recent British political history followed, with dozens of ministers resigning and the PM refusing to do the same (which drew comparisons to Donald Trump's refusal to concede after Joe Biden won the 2020 United States presidential election) despite most of his cabinet coming to his house to tell him the jig was up. He finally resigned on Thursday, setting the stage for a potentially bruising leadership contest to succeed him as PM, with Johnson remaining in office in a caretaker position until a new leader is elected in the autumn. Johnson will leave office as one of the shortest serving PMs, being surpassed by his predecessor Theresa May.

7 Stranger Things (season 4) 1,157,964 Stranger Things logo.png Back to the Upside Down, which finished its most recent season with two extra-long chapters - the two hour finale is one of those cases where tensions run so high that time seems not to pass. This season will also be remembered for giving Kate Bush another Number 1 with "Running Up That Hill", which in the show apparently makes you float in the air and look like Jesse Pinkman when he was high on drugs that one time. It also marks the second time a character in a Netflix show nicknamed "Number 1" was revealed as a major villain, the first being Squid Game.
8 Assassination of Shinzo Abe 1,104,347[a] Shinzo Abe 20200407 3.jpg On 8 July the former Japanese prime minister (#1) was campaigning in Nara for local candidate Kei Satō when a gunman with largely unknown motivations shot him. He was airlifted to hospital but died later that day. His assassination was the first of a former Japanese prime minister since Saitō Makoto and Takahashi Korekiyo during the February 26 Incident in 1936.
9 Cameron Norrie 1,021,137 Cam Norrie (49981633941).jpg Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon for the seventh time, but let's talk about who he had to go through: the semifinal had local player Cameron Norrie in two and half hours, and the decision had Australian Nick Kyrgios in three, both reaching that phase in a Grand Slam for the first time.
10 Nick Kyrgios 1,013,063 Nick Kyrgios (18614670813).jpg
  1. ^ Includes 271,056 views for previous title Shooting of Shinzo Abe.

Now everything's about to fall apart (July 9 to 16)

Rank Article Class Views Image Notes/about
1 Ivana Trump 1,894,325 Ivana Trump cropped retouched (cropped2).jpg This Czech-American model and businesswoman died this week of a suspected fall. Of course the main reason she's topped this list is the... prominence of her second husband.
2 Thor: Love and Thunder 1,774,346 The frontview of Mercedes-Benz EQA250 (H243) ver. THOR:Love and Thunder.jpg The latest MCU film is still making a killing, despite generally being considered a disappointment compared to previous films in the series (though following up Ragnarok was always going to be tricky). It's garnering enough views it will probably make the year-end report, joining the six films that are already there (pictured is a car promoting the film).
3 Penny Mordaunt 1,578,571 Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt.jpg The international trade secretary and MP for Portsmouth North has emerged as the unexpected frontrunner, alongside Rishi Sunak (#5), to succeed Boris Johnson as the Tory leader, and therefore as the UK's prime minister. She's attempting to run a middle line between the wings of the party, and has struggled to define herself. Given she's pitching as a unity candidate, this may be by design.
4 Nick Kyrgios 1,053,899 Nick Kyrgios (34257399214).jpg This Australian player saw both sides of the luck spectrum in Wimbledon: first, Rafael Nadal gave up on the semifinal due to an injury, meaning Kyrgios reached his first Grand Slam final without even playing. But then came Novak Djokovic, and he couldn't repeat his upset in 2017 and lost the final after three hours of play. And he won't even get the boost in the ATP rankings given no points will be given following the decision by the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club to ban Russians and Belarusians.
5 Rishi Sunak 1,039,456 Official portrait of Rishi Sunak crop 2.jpg Alongside Penny Mordaunt (#3), the former chancellor is one of the frontrunners to succeed Boris Johnson as the Tory leader and UK Prime Minister.
6 Lalit Modi 988,609 Modi at IPL Players Auction.jpg The founder of the Indian Premier League (who is currently an international fugitive) announced a relationship with Indian actress Sushmita Sen.
7 James Webb Space Telescope 941,630 Webb's First Deep Field.jpg "Space... the final frontier."

This week the world saw the first images from NASA's new orbital telescope, which are of light that's been travelling for 13 billion years!

8 Deaths in 2022 a 932,495 A male skeleton on his knees before a female skeleton (vignette for the feast of the dead) MET DP867977.jpg If you see him in the street,
walking by himself, talking to himself, have pity,
he is going through the unimaginable...
9 Shinzo Abe 784,211 Shinzo Abe 20200407 1.jpg The assassination of this former Japanese prime minister is still being mourned.
10 Novak Djokovic 781,002 Novak Djokovic (34775891004) (cropped).jpg One of tennis' greatest, even if his stance against vaccines is really contemptible. His win over #4 was his 21st Grand Slam (7th in Wimbledon), leaving the Serbian only one title behind Rafael Nadal.

Give me love, give us a kiss, and tell me your own politik (July 17 to 23)

Rank Article Class Views Image Notes/about
1 Droupadi Murmu 1,763,304 Droupadi Murmu June 2022.jpg The Governor of Jharkhand will make history as the first person from a Scheduled Tribe to be elected as India's president (although not the first woman; that record belongs to Pratibha Patil.) She will also be the youngest president ever, because she's only 64; being president is generally seen as a final political job, and most Indian politicians are either over 50 or somebody's son.
2 Rishi Sunak 1,050,812 Ready for Rishi logo - blue.png The Tories have narrowed the field in the 2022 Conservative Party leadership election down to two, with RISH! Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer under the outgoing PM Boris Johnson, currently in first place in the MP's ballot, having been a frontrunner throughout the entire leadership content thus far. Are the Tories ready for Rishi or not? Find out in September!
3 Nope (film) 1,009,923 Piezas arqueológicas encontradas por Ezequiel Montiel 09.jpg Splitting some British Prime Minister prospects is the return of Jordan Peele, who 3 years after Us shows that after building a career in comedy, he only wants to do scary movies, reuniting with Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya to tell the story of two ranch owners who stumble upon an UFO.
4 Liz Truss 915,799 Liz For Leader logo.png The Tories have narrowed the field in the 2022 Conservative Party leadership election down to two, with Liz Truss, the number one fan of both pork markets and Margaret Thatcher, in second place in the final MPs' ballot, after overtaking Penny Mordaunt. Do the Tories want Liz for Leader or not? Find out in September!
5 Thor: Love and Thunder 914,535 MJOLNIR hammer.jpg #3 took the top of the American box office from the Marvel Cinematic Universe's latest, the return of the God of Thunder which already passed $600 million worldwide.
6 Jennifer Lopez 909,014 Jennifer Lopez.jpg Twenty years ago, J. Lo and Ben Affleck became a couple while making a terrible movie, and the media overexposed "Bennifer" until they broke up. She afterwards married Marc Anthony and had twins with him, but fate eventually had her and Ben getting together again, and this week they married.
7 Deaths in 2022 906,833 KdV07Bonesman.jpg Oh no
It go
It gone
Bye-Bye (Bye!)
Who I
I think
I sink
and I die!
8 The Gray Man (2022 film) 846,311 Ryan Gosling (35397134013) (cropped).jpg Netflix might be losing subscribers, but is still flush with cash to spend in big action movies. This week came out a book adaptation reuniting the star, directors and writers of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (and its bigger sequels), albeit Chris Evans is a bad guy as it instead follows Ryan Gosling as a convicted murderer who is taken out of prison to work as an assassin for the CIA.
9 Ivana Trump 806,050 Ivana Trump in 1986 (cropped).jpg The socialite mother of Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump (and yes, the first wife of The Donald) died after falling down the stairs in her home.
10 Ben Affleck 708,168 Ben Affleck (8464887806).jpg An actor who replaced #6 with a namesake, Jennifer Garner (the Elektra of his Daredevil, mother of his three kids), and while a return as Batman is not in the cards, one with J. Lo turned out to be.

Exclusions

  • These lists exclude the Wikipedia main page, non-article pages (such as redlinks), and anomalous entries (such as DDoS attacks or likely automated views). Since mobile view data became available to the Report in October 2014, we exclude articles that have almost no mobile views (5–6% or less) or almost all mobile views (94–95% or more) because they are very likely to be automated views based on our experience and research of the issue. Please feel free to discuss any removal on the Top 25 Report talk page if you wish.



Reader comments



This Signpost "Featured content" report covers material promoted in the month of June. Quotes are generally from the articles, but may be abridged or simplified for length.

thumbtime={{{thumbtime}}}

Here we are again, and this time I'm actually doing all the work and not just leaving it for someone else to do. I'm so disappointed in myself. Good month for featured pictures and articles, but an awful month for lists – only two, which I'm told is the worst month for lists ever. Luckily, July is already doing much better. Meanwhile, featured topics are usually quite rare (as one would expect, given they're an entire subject matter's worth of featured articles, so having two featured topics is actually very good.

It's not really a coincidence that The Cenotaph appears both in Featured Articles and Featured Pictures, because I like searching the featured article candidates for good-quality images to restore or nominate. Same with James B. McPherson, who was the commander of the new Featured Article, Battle of Raymond. If you see images in prospective or existing featured articles you think might be of featured picture quality, by all means either tell me or nominate them yourself. I've always thought Featured Articles deserve Featured Pictures in them when possible.

Speaking of Featured Pictures, we could probably use a bit more participation there – but, then, I do have a thirteen-image nomination backlog, so that might be a rather self-serving invite.

Adam Cuerden

Featured articles

Seventeen featured articles were promoted this period.

Cedar Hill Yard, nominated by Trainsandotherthings
Cedar Hill Yard is a classification yard located in New Haven, North Haven, and Hamden, Connecticut. It was built by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad (known simply as The New Haven) in the early 1890s in and around New Haven's Cedar Hill neighborhood, which gave the yard its name. Electrical catenary for electric locomotives was added to the yard in 1914. To handle increasing traffic as a result of World War I, the yard was greatly expanded between 1917 and 1920 with additional construction along both sides of the Quinnipiac River. The yard was further modernized in the 1920s, becoming one of the busiest railroad yards in the United States, and the most important yard in the entire New Haven Railroad system. At its peak during World War II, Cedar Hill Yard handled more than 5,000 railroad cars per day. However, following the end of the war, the yard's importance began to decline as freight traffic across New England shifted to road transport, and heavy industry left the region. Much of the yard began to fall into decay following the New Haven Railroad's bankruptcy in 1961. In 1999, it was purchased by CSX Transportation and began expanding once more. Amtrak now uses part of the yard as a base for maintenance of way operations on the Northeast Corridor, while two other freight railroads also operate freight trains to and from the yard including the Providence and Worcester Railroad and Connecticut Southern Railroad. Cedar Hill Yard remains the largest classification yard in Connecticut as of 2022 despite its diminished size.
Herman the Archdeacon, nominated by Dudley Miles
Herman the Archdeacon (born before 1040, died 1090s) was a member of the household of Herfast, Bishop of East Anglia, in the 1070s and 1080s, and then a monk of Bury St Edmunds Abbey in Suffolk for the rest of his life. Herman was probably born in Germany. Around 1070 he entered Herfast's household, and according to a later source he became the bishop's archdeacon, which was at that time an important secretarial position. He assisted Herfast in his unsuccessful campaign to move his bishopric to Bury St Edmunds Abbey, against the opposition of its abbot, and helped to bring about a temporary reconciliation between the two men. He remained with the bishop until his death in 1084, but he later regretted supporting his campaign to move the bishopric and himself moved to the abbey by 1092.
Herman was a colourful character and a theatrical preacher, but he is chiefly known as an able scholar who wrote the Miracles of St Edmund, a hagiographical account of miracles believed to have been performed by Edmund, King of East Anglia after his death at the hand of a Danish Viking army in 869. Herman's account also covered the history of the eponymous abbey.
The Cenotaph, nominated by HJ Mitchell
The Cenotaph is a 1920 war memorial on Whitehall in London, England designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens as the United Kingdom's national memorial to the British and Commonwealth dead of the First World War. It has since come to represent British casualties from later conflicts. A cenotaph is an empty tomb: during the First World War, most of the dead were buried close to where they fell; thus, the Cenotaph symbolises their absence and is a focal point for public mourning.
The original temporary Cenotaph was erected in 1919 for a parade celebrating the end of the First World War. Calls for the Cenotaph to be rebuilt in permanent form began almost immediately. After some debate, the government agreed and construction work began in May 1920. Lutyens added entasis (curvature) but otherwise made minimal design alterations. The memorial met with public acclaim and has largely been praised by academics, though some Christian organisations disapproved of its lack of overt religious symbolism. The National Service of Remembrance is held annually at the site on Remembrance Sunday; it is also the scene of other remembrance services.
Enoch Fenwick, nominated by Ergo Sum
Enoch Fenwick SJ (May 15, 1780 – November 25, 1827) was an American Catholic priest and Jesuit, who ministered throughout Maryland and became the president of Georgetown College. He studied at Georgetown College in Washington, D.C. Like his brother and future bishop, Benedict Joseph Fenwick, he entered the priesthood, studying at St. Mary's Seminary, before entering the Society of Jesus, which was suppressed at the time. He was made rector of St. Peter's Pro-Cathedral in Baltimore by Archbishop John Carroll and remained in the position for ten years. Near the end of his pastorate, he was also made vicar general of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which involved traveling to say Mass in remote parishes throughout rural Maryland. In 1820, Fenwick reluctantly accepted his appointment as president of Georgetown College. While he made some improvements to the curriculum, his presidency was considered unsuccessful by contemporaries due to declining enrollment and mounting debt. In August 1825, he abandoned the presidency following a disagreement with the provincial superior. He died two years later.
1990–91 Gillingham F.C. season, nominated by ChrisTheDude
During the 1990–91 English football season, Gillingham F.C. competed in the Football League Fourth Division, the fourth tier of the English football league system. It was the 59th season in which Gillingham competed in the Football League and the 41st since the club was voted back into the league in 1950. Early in the season, Ron Hillyard, the club's long-serving goalkeeper, ended his playing career with a club record number of appearances. Gillingham's form was inconsistent in the first half of the season; after falling to 17th in the league table, the team began a lengthy unbeaten run and were 10th at the end of 1990. Around the end of March, Peter Beadle and David Crown, two of the team's regular starting forwards, were injured and both missed most of the remainder of the season. The team went 10 consecutive games without winning between the last game of March and the first of May and finished the season 15th in the Fourth Division.
Daglish railway station, nominated by Steelkamp
Daglish railway station is a commuter railway station on the boundary of Daglish and Subiaco, suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. Opened on 14 July 1924, the station was named after Henry Daglish, who was a mayor of Subiaco, a member for the electoral district of Subiaco, and a premier of Western Australia in the 1900s. Daglish was a resident of Subiaco for 22 years before he died in 1920. The station consists of an island platform accessed by a pedestrian underpass. There are two small buildings on the platform which operated as a parcels office and ticket office up until 1970. The station is only partially accessible due to a steep access ramp and lack of tactile paving.
Danzig Street shooting, nominated by Reidgreg
The Danzig Street shooting was a Canadian gang-related shooting. It occurred on the evening of 16 July 2012 at a block party, which began as a children's barbecue at a social housing complex, on Danzig Street in the West Hill neighbourhood of Toronto. Rival gang members Folorunso Owusu, 17, and Nahom Tsegazab, 19, along with an unidentified third gunman, opened fire in a crowd of two hundred people. This resulted in the deaths of Joshua Yasay and Shyanne Charles, and the injury of twenty-four others (including two of the perpetrators), making it the worst mass shooting in Toronto. Although initially believed to be the resumption of a 2003 gang war between the Galloway Boys and the Malvern Crew, it later became clear that the Danzig Street shooting was not part of a territorial dispute or retaliation for another incident but a disagreement between teenagers who then had a gunfight at a party. Justice Ian Nordheimer said of the incident, "Ordinary persons do not understand how anyone, much less teenagers, can come not only to possess such weapons, but to use them in such a brutal and indifferent way."
The incident, in conjunction with the Eaton Centre shooting six weeks earlier and a shooting in a Colorado movie theatre four days later, renewed debate on gun crime in urban areas.
Strom Thurmond filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, nominated by AviationFreak
On August 28, 1957, Strom Thurmond, a United States senator from South Carolina, began a filibuster intended to prevent the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which worked to make voting more accessible to African Americans. The filibuster, an extended speech designed to stall legislation, began at 8:54 p.m. and lasted until 9:12 p.m. the following day, a duration of 24 hours and 18 minutes. This made the filibuster the longest single-person filibuster in United States Senate history, a record that still stands as of 2022. The filibuster focused primarily on asserting that the bill was both unnecessary and unconstitutional, and Thurmond read from several historical and legal documents. As a show of physical endurance, the filibuster also served to reinforce Southern ideas about white masculine strength and power. Despite the filibuster, the bill passed the Senate two hours after Thurmond's conclusion and was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower within two weeks.
Battle of Raymond, nominated by Hog Farm
The Battle of Raymond, part of the American Civil War, was fought on May 12, 1863, near Raymond, Mississippi, during attempts capture the strategically important Mississippi River city of Vicksburg. During this, a portion of Grant's army consisting of Major General James B. McPherson's 10,000 to 12,000-man XVII Corps moved northeast towards Raymond. In response, the Confederate commander of Vicksburg, Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton, ordered Brigadier General John Gregg to Raymond. Neither commander was aware of the strength of his opponent, and Gregg acted aggressively, thinking McPherson's force was small enough his men could easily defeat it. McPherson, in turn, overestimated Confederate strength and responded cautiously. After two brigades of Major General John A. Logan's division fought against the Confederate force, McPherson brought up Brigadier General John D. Stevenson's brigade and Brigadier General Marcellus M. Crocker's division, and Gregg decided to disengage after the Confederate line cracked. The battle at Raymond changed Grant's plans for the Vicksburg campaign, leading him to first focus on neutralizing the Confederate forces at Jackson before turning against Vicksburg, capturing it on July 4.
Oscar Isaac, nominated by FrB.TG
Óscar Isaac Hernández Estrada (born March 9, 1979) is an American actor. Known for his versatility, he has contributed to a change in the portrayal of Latinos in Hollywood. Isaac was named the best actor of his generation by Vanity Fair in 2017 and one of the 25 greatest actors of the 21st century by The New York Times in 2020. His accolades include a Golden Globe Award, a National Board of Review Award and an appearance on Time's list of one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2016.
His first major role was that of Joseph in the biblical drama The Nativity Story (2006) and he won an AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for portraying José Ramos-Horta in the Australian film Balibo (2009). After gaining recognition for playing supporting parts in Robin Hood (2010) and Drive (2011), Isaac had his breakthrough with the eponymous role of a singer in the musical drama Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), which earned him a Golden Globe nomination. Isaac's career progressed with leading roles in the crime drama A Most Violent Year (2014), the thriller Ex Machina (2015) and the superhero film X-Men: Apocalypse (2016). He became a global star with the role of Poe Dameron in the Star Wars sequel trilogy (2015–2019). Isaac starred in the historical drama Operation Finale (2018)—which marked his first venture into production—the science-fiction films Annihilation (2018) and Dune (2021), and the crime drama The Card Counter (2021).
Battle of Lalakaon, nominated by Constantine
The Battle of Lalakaon was fought in 863 between the Byzantine Empire and an invading Arab army in Paphlagonia (modern northern Turkey). The Byzantine army was led by Petronas, the uncle of Emperor Michael III, although Arab sources also mention the presence of the Emperor in person. The Arabs were led by the emir of Melitene (Malatya), Umar al-Aqta. Umar al-Aqta overcame initial Byzantine resistance to his invasion and reached the Black Sea. The Byzantines then mobilized their forces and encircled the Arab army near the Lalakaon river. The subsequent battle ended in a Byzantine victory and the emir's death on the field, and was followed by a successful Byzantine counteroffensive across the border. These victories were decisive; the main threats to the Byzantine borderlands were eliminated, and the era of Byzantine ascendancy in the East (culminating in the 10th-century conquests) began.
1998 FIFA World Cup Final, nominated by Amakuru
The 1998 FIFA World Cup Final was the final match of the 1998 FIFA World Cup, the 16th edition of the quadrennial football competition organised by FIFA for the men's national teams of its member associations. The match was played at the Stade de France in Paris, France, on 12 July 1998 and was contested by Brazil and France. France took the lead shortly before the half-hour mark, when Zinedine Zidane outjumped Leonardo to connect with a header from an in-swinging corner from the right taken by Emmanuel Petit. Zidane scored again, with another header from a corner, shortly before half-time to give France a 2–0 lead. Petit then added a third goal in second-half injury time, striking the ball low into the net following a pass by Patrick Vieira, to complete a 3–0 win for France. France's win was their first World Cup title, as they became the seventh different nation to win the tournament. Zidane was named the man of the match, while Brazilian player Ronaldo was awarded the Golden Ball as FIFA's outstanding player of the tournament.
"Out of the Woods", nominated by Ippantekina
"Out of the Woods" is a song by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, taken from her fifth studio album, 1989 (2014). Swift wrote and produced the song with Jack Antonoff. With lyrics inspired by a failed relationship and the ensuing anxieties that Swift experienced, "Out of the Woods" is a synth-pop song with elements of indietronica and features heavy synthesizers, looping drums, and layered background vocals. Music critics praised "Out of the Woods" for its 1980s-influenced production and narrative lyrics offering emotional engagement. The song peaked at number 18 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It also reached the top 20 of charts in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
"Dear Future Husband", nominated by MaranoFan (NØ)
"Dear Future Husband" is a song by American singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor, included on Title, her 2014 extended play, and the 2015 studio album of the same name. Trainor wrote the song with its producer Kevin Kadish. Epic Records released "Dear Future Husband" as the album's third single on March 17, 2015. A doo-wop and pop song, it has lyrics about chivalry and dating. In the song, Trainor lists things a potential romantic suitor needs to do to win her affection. Some music critics praised the playful nature of "Dear Future Husband" and compared its lyrics to different Trainor songs, while others were negative about the portrayal of gender roles in its lyrics. Fatima Robinson directed the music video for "Dear Future Husband", which depicts Trainor baking pies in the kitchen and scrubbing floors while various men audition to be her partner. It garnered controversy and online criticism over allegations of antifeminism and sexism.
Shannen Says, nominated by Aoba47
Shannen Says is an eight-episode American reality television series broadcast on We TV from April 10 to May 13, 2012. The show focuses on the preparations for the wedding of actress Shannen Doherty and photographer Kurt Iswarienko, with help from celebrity-wedding planner David Tutera. Doherty and Iswarienko developed the show as a way to document the stress on a couple while planning their wedding and was filmed in Malibu, California between August 2011 and October 2011. Shannen Says had low viewership and ranked below most other programs when it premiered, despite its popularity among women between the ages of 25 and 54. Doherty said that it was intended as a one-off, with no plans for a second season.
Sawmill Fire (2017), nominated by Vami IV
The Sawmill Fire was a wildfire that burned 46,991 acres (19,017 ha) in the U.S. state of Arizona in April 2017. The fire was caused by the detonation of a target packed with tannerite at a gender reveal party in the Coronado National Forest. No injuries or fatalities resulted from the fire, nor were any buildings destroyed, though the fire did come close to the historic Empire Ranch, a National Register of Historic Places property. Over 800 personnel from various federal, state, and local agencies and organizations worked to contain and then extinguish the Sawmill Fire at a cost of $8,200,000.
The fire was started by accident on April 23, 2017, by Dennis Dickey, an off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent who had shot the tannerite target. Dickey immediately informed first responders of the fire, which spread rapidly until it was contained on 30 April. The U.S. Attorney's Office charged Dickey with a misdemeanor charge to which he plead guilty, fined him $220,000 dollars in restitution, and sentenced him to five years' probation. The fire remained in the public's consciousness afterward because of other fires caused by tannerite targets and by gender reveal parties, such as the 2020 El Dorado Fire in California. When the U.S. Forest Service released footage of the fire's inception in November 2018 at the request of a local news agency, the cause of the Sawmill Fire was subject to online mockery.
Shaylee Mansfield, nominated by Pamzeis
Shaylee Mansfield (born 2009) is an American actress and former YouTuber who is deaf. Mansfield was born in Burbank, California and first gained recognition by making viral videos in which she tells Christmas stories in American Sign Language. Mansfield appeared in an "Unforgettable Stories" video advertisement by Disney Parks, in which she met Minnie Mouse who was learning sign language at Walt Disney World. The video quickly went viral, becoming one of Disney's most-watched advertisements. Mansfield made her acting debut in 2019 in Disney's Noelle. The following year, her request for automatic captioning on Instagram drew attention from several media publications and became popular on Twitter. She received further recognition for her roles in Netflix's Feel the Beat (2020) and Quiver Distribution's 13 Minutes (2021). In 2022, for her signed performance on the animated series Madagascar: A Little Wild, Mansfield possibly became the first deaf actor to be credited alongside voice actors.

Featured pictures

Twenty-six featured pictures were promoted this period, including the ones appearing as this article's footer and header

Featured topics

Two featured topics were promoted this period.

Solar System, nominated by Mover of molehills
19 articles
Solar System
Solar System size to scale.svg
Sun
Mercury
Venus
Earth
Mars
Jupiter
Saturn
Uranus
Neptune
Pluto
Ceres
Eris
Makemake
Haumea
Formation and evolution
Asteroid belt
Kuiper belt
Scattered disc
Oort cloud
Overview of Judy Ann Santos, nominated by Pseud 14
3 articles
Judy Ann Santos
Judy Ann Santos (2008).jpg
Awards and nominations
Filmography

Featured lists

Two featured lists were promoted this period.

The nine-banded armadillo is one of the cingulates in the new featured list!
List of cingulates, nominated by PresN
Cingulata is an order of armored placental mammals. Members of this order are called cingulates, or colloquially, armadillos. They are primarily found in South America, though the northern naked-tailed armadillo is found mainly in Central America and the nine-banded armadillo has a range extending into North America. They are generally found in forests, but also savannas, shrublands, and grasslands. They all follow a similar body plan, and range in size from the pink fairy armadillo, at 11 cm (4 in) plus a 2 cm (1 in) tail, to the giant armadillo, at 100 cm (39 in) plus a 50 cm (20 in) tail. No population estimates have been made for any cingulate species, though the giant armadillo and the Brazilian three-banded armadillo are categorized as vulnerable species.
List of Billboard Latin Pop Airplay number ones of 1997, nominated by Erick
Latin Pop Airplay is a chart published by Billboard magazine that ranks the top-performing songs (regardless of genre or language) on Latin pop radio stations in the United States, based on weekly airplay data compiled by Nielsen's Broadcast Data Systems. It is a subchart of Hot Latin Songs, which lists the best-performing Spanish-language songs in the country. In 1997, 17 songs topped the chart, in 52 issues of the magazine.



Reader comments

In this column, I will outline some of the possible ways to deal with awful citations on Wikipedia by making use of Citation bot. By 'awful' citations, I don't mean 'awful' in the sense that they are dealing with unreliable sources, but rather in the copy editor's sense, where the information is presented in a reader-unfriendly way. You may be surprised to hear just how little technical skill is required!

Using the bot

Citation expander button.png
The citation expander gadget adds a button to trigger the bot from the edit window! (The exact appearance may differ.)

While the world of bots can be intimidating, making use of Citation bot is very actually very simple even if you don't know the first thing about programming. A basic guide is available for readers who want more technical information and less guidance. Here I will focus on the easiest way of using the bot – using the citation expander gadget.

The gadget will add an "Expand citations" options to your sidebar, and a Citations button to your edit window. You can easily enable it in the gadgets tab of your preferences panel. Go to the "Editing" section, and check the box labelled Citation expander.

After that, all you have to do is find a page in need of some love and run the bot. It will automatically try to improve existing citations as best it can. Note that if this is your first time running the bot, you might be asked to grant it permission to make edits on your behalf. You will have to grant it these permissions again if you log out or log in on a different machine.

While there are other ways of activating the bot, for the sake of this tutorial, I will assume that you use the Citations button of the citation expander. This will let you review the changes made to the article and make sure everything is in order before saving. If you want to use the web interface or click on "Expand citations" in the sidebar, you will need to save the article after the "cleanup step" before running the bot. The bot will then make its changes automatically, and you will need to review them afterwards. While the first method should always work, the others will only work if the bot is unblocked and is vulnerable to edit conflicts.

Case 1: Accurate citations with limited usefulness

Let's say you come across a citation that's generally accurate, but is missing some information. Something like

Before cleanup
wikitext {{cite journal |last1=West |first1=Jevin D. |last2=Jacquet |first2=Jennifer |last3=King |first3=Molly M. |last4=Correll |first4=Shelley J. |last5=Bergstrom |first5=Carl T. |year=2013 |title=The Role of Gender in Scholarly Authorship |url=https://doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0066212 |journal=PLOS ONE |volume=8 |issue=7 |pages=e66212}}
output West, Jevin D.; Jacquet, Jennifer; King, Molly M.; Correll, Shelley J.; Bergstrom, Carl T. (2013). "The Role of Gender in Scholarly Authorship". PLOS ONE. 8 (7): e66212.

Nothing in this citation is wrong strictly speaking, but it could be made a lot more useful to readers if it contained standard identifiers. Since we already have a DOI url in |url=, we only need to click Citations to run the bot and get

After the bot
wikitext {{cite journal |last1=West |first1=Jevin D. |last2=Jacquet |first2=Jennifer |last3=King |first3=Molly M. |last4=Correll |first4=Shelley J. |last5=Bergstrom |first5=Carl T. |year=2013 |title=The Role of Gender in Scholarly Authorship |url=https://doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0066212 |journal=PLOS ONE |volume=8 |issue=7 |pages=e66212 |arxiv=1211.1759 |bibcode=2013PLoSO...866212W |doi=10.1371/journal.pone.0066212 |pmc=3718784 |pmid=23894278}}
output West, Jevin D.; Jacquet, Jennifer; King, Molly M.; Correll, Shelley J.; Bergstrom, Carl T. (2013). "The Role of Gender in Scholarly Authorship". PLOS ONE. 8 (7): e66212. arXiv:1211.1759. Bibcode:2013PLoSO...866212W. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066212. PMC 3718784. PMID 23894278.

And we have a nice, well-formatted citation, with many ways to find the article. Here the bot even went the extra mile and flagged the DOI with |doi-access=free to indicate the DOI will take you to a full free version of the article. This will not always be automatically detected, in which case you can add |doi-access=free yourself.

This method will work with most URLs that point to a standard identifier, or with citations already using standard identifiers: arXiv, Bibcode, DOI, ISBN, JSTOR, PMCID, and PMID. It will also work with URLs to major repositories, like ScienceDirect and Wiley Online Library, although it will not necessarily be as reliable as the DOI method.

While the bot is not guaranteed to find every DOI and PMID out there, running the bot will often cut down a lot of work. So before doing it all yourself, it's a good idea to run the bot first. Not only will it add missing information, it will also cleanup several common mistakes like |last=Smith,|last=Smith, |volume=12(3)|volume=12 |issue=3, or |journal=PLOS GENETICS|journal=PLOS Genetics. You can then focus on cleaning up the things the bot was not able to figure out, like fixing poorly formatted or incomplete citations, or hunting down missing DOIs and JSTOR ids.

Case 2: Poor plain text citations

While WP:CITEVAR is a thing worth keeping in mind, plain text citations are often poorly presented, with typos, and limited usefulness. In those case, WP:CITEVAR does not apply, as no consistent style has been used. Consider for example the following

Before cleanup
wikitext G. Coppola + coauthors (2009). "Sérsic galaxy with Sérsic halo models of early-type galaxies: A TOOL FOR N-BODY SIMUILATION". Publications of the ASP. volume 121-879 pp. 437. {{doi|10.1086/599288}}{{bibcode|2009PASP..121..437C}}
output G. Coppola + coauthors (2009). "Sérsic galaxy with Sérsic halo models of early-type galaxies: A TOOL FOR N-BODY SIMUILATION". Publications of the ASP. volume 121-879 pp. 437. doi:10.1086/599288Bibcode:2009PASP..121..437C

There are several things wrong with this one. Coauthors are not listed (or at least the standard et al. is not used). We have an inconsistently capitalized title, with a typo (SIMUILATION). The journal's name is abbreviated in a non-standard manner, and there are presentation problems with the volume/issue/pages. We also have issues with the presentation of identifiers as well. While it is possible to clean this up by hand, this would take a lot of time.

A much more efficient way of doing the cleanup is to use the bot. We already have identifiers, so the hard part has been done for us; we simply need to feed them to the bot. We can do this in many ways.

Cleanup step
wikitext
method 1
Any of
  • {{cite journal |bibcode=2009PASP..121..437C}}
  • {{cite journal |doi=10.1086/599288}}
  • {{cite journal |bibcode=2009PASP..121..437C |doi=10.1086/599288}}
  • {{cite journal |url=http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2009PASP..121..437C}}
  • {{cite journal |url=https://doi.org/10.1086%2F599288}}
wikitext
method 2
Any of
  • <ref>http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2009PASP..121..437C</ref>
  • <ref>https://doi.org/10.1086%2F599288</ref>

The second method in particular is very easy to use, since you can just right-click on the identifier, and copy paste the URL in the <ref></ref> tags. However it only works within <ref></ref> tags. The first method is more useful for lists of works and bibliographies, but will also work in <ref></ref> tags as long as you don't mind typing a bit more characters and copy-pasting the identifiers (e.g. <ref>{{cite journal |bibcode=2009PASP..121..437C |doi=10.1086/599288}}</ref>).

With whichever method you prefer, you only need to click Citations to run the bot and get

After the bot
wikitext {{cite journal |last1=Coppola |first1=G. |last2=La Barbera |first2=F. |last3=Capaccioli |first3=M. |year=2009 |title=Sérsic Galaxy with Sérsic Halo Models of Early-type Galaxies: A Tool forN-body Simulations |journal=Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific |volume=121 |issue=879 |pages=437–449 |arxiv=0903.4758 |bibcode=2009PASP..121..437C |doi=10.1086/599288 |s2cid=18540590}}
output Coppola, G.; La Barbera, F.; Capaccioli, M. (2009). "Sérsic Galaxy with Sérsic Halo Models of Early-type Galaxies: A Tool forN-body Simulations". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 121 (879): 437–449. arXiv:0903.4758. Bibcode:2009PASP..121..437C. doi:10.1086/599288. S2CID 18540590.

This is not perfect, but it is very close to the final desired version. We only need to do a bit of retouching (A Tool forN-body SimulationsA Tool for ''N''-body Simulations), and optionally add |doi-access=free since the DOI link takes us to a free full version of the article, to get

Final text
output Coppola, G.; La Barbera, F.; Capaccioli, M. (2009). "Sérsic Galaxy with Sérsic Halo Models of Early-type Galaxies: A Tool for N-body Simulations". Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 121 (879): 437–449. arXiv:0903.4758. Bibcode:2009PASP..121..437C. doi:10.1086/599288. S2CID 18540590.

If the citation was as poorly formatted as the initial version, it is very likely that WP:CITEVAR does not apply. However, if this was found in a featured article, and was the only poorly formatted citation in an otherwise excellent reference section, returning to a plain text citation is very straightforward. Simply copy-paste the output you get when previewing, with minor modifications

Final wikitext, if WP:CITEVAR applies
wikitext Coppola, G.; La Barbera, F.; Capaccioli, M. (2009). "Sérsic Galaxy with Sérsic Halo Models of Early-type Galaxies: A Tool for ''N''-body Simulations". ''Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific''. '''121''' (879): 437–449. {{arXiv|0903.4758}}. {{bibcode|2009PASP..121..437C}}. {{doi|10.1086/599288}}. {{s2cid|18540590}}.

Case 3: Inaccurate citations

What if you come across a citation you know is just wildly inaccurate, or just so outrageously formatted that things barely make any sense?

Before cleanup
wikitext {{cite journal |last1=Ar≥≥on;Jacobin |first1=New Scientist |year=2018 |title=Deflector Selector says nuke asteroids |journal=Elsevier ScienceDirect |volume=pages3165|issue=3165 |pages=6 |bibcode=2018NewSc.237....6A |doi=10.1016/S0262-4079(18)30281-1}}
output Ar≥≥on;Jacobin, New Scientist (2018). "Deflector Selector says nuke asteroids". Elsevier ScienceDirect. pages3165 (3165): 6. Bibcode:2014PhT....67d..48W. doi:10.1016/S0262-4079(18)30281-1.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

Fixing this manually is possible. But you would need to look up the original and pretty much reformat the whole thing. When something is this badly broken, it is good to make sure that whatever is intended to be cited is actually the thing being cited. This could easily be the result of vandalism that resulted in two citations being merged together inadequately. Here, Bibcode:2014PhT....67d..48W and doi:10.1016/S0262-4079(18)30281-1 don't even point to the same citation! However, once you determine which is the correct citation, we can follow the TNT principle as applied to this particular citation: Blow it up and start over!

Let's assume that doi:10.1016/S0262-4079(18)30281-1 is the correct citation. We can then TNT it back to a state that the bot can make sense of

Cleanup step
wikitext {{cite journal |doi=10.1016/S0262-4079(18)30281-1}}

and then we only need to click Citations to run the bot and get

After the bot
wikitext {{cite journal |last1=Aron |first1=Jacob |year=2018 |title=Deflector Selector says nuke asteroids |journal=New Scientist |volume=237 |issue=3165 |pages=6 |bibcode=2018NewSc.237....6A |doi=10.1016/S0262-4079(18)30281-1}}
output Aron, Jacob (2018). "Deflector Selector says nuke asteroids". New Scientist. 237 (3165): 6. Bibcode:2018NewSc.237....6A. doi:10.1016/S0262-4079(18)30281-1.

Dealing with the bot's imperfections

Sometimes the metadata available to the bot isn't perfect, and the bot will mess up something that it can't know is wrong. If the bot keeps messing up something after you've fixed it, for example if it keeps adding a |series= to a {{cite journal}} template, you can bypass the bot by putting a comment in the problematic parameter

  • {{cite journal ... |series=<!--Deny citation bot, Journal of Physics is not a book series!-->}}

this will let the bot know it shouldn't try to touch that specific parameter. Likewise if it incorrectly converts a {{cite journal}} to a {{cite book}}, you can put a comment in the template's name

  • {{cite journal <!--Deny citation bot, Journal of Physics is not a book--> |last=... }}

this will let the bot know it shouldn't try to touch that citation at all.

You can report bugs and issues at the bot's talk page. You can also suggest improvements to the bot if you have some ideas.

Dealing with timeouts

An alternative way of running the bot is to use the "Expand citations" link in the sidebar

The more citations an article has, the longer the bot will need to process the article. If an article only has a few citations, the bot will usually deal with it within a minute. If an article has several hundred citations, the bot can take several minutes to process it, and can even timeout. If that happens, you can edit the article section-by-section to give the bot fewer citations to process at once. You can alternatively click on "Expand citations" in the sidebar instead (see picture on the right), and the bot will eventually make an edit. You might be given a timeout screen, but just come back to the article after an hour and you should see a successful edit. If an edit conflict occurred, just run the bot again.

The "Expand citations" link is also a good way to finish your editing session. Just let the bot run, and go do something else. When you return, the bot will have made an edit if it found something to cleanup, and you can continue from there.

Final remarks

While Citation bot is not perfect and doesn't fix everything, correctly used it is a very powerful tool that can save you a ton of headaches and make your editing experience that much easier. I gave examples above using {{cite journal}}, but the bot will also work with {{cite book}}, {{cite web}} and many others (including {{citation}}). I focused on cleanup in this Tips and Tricks column, but you can easily use these methods to add citations to articles. Simply find a good identifier, put in in a citation template (or a plain URL in <ref></ref> tags), and unleash the bot!

I'll note as a disclaimer that I've re-ordered certain parameters to make my examples more legible and more understandable to the reader. In the wild, citation parameter order will depend a lot on what input is given to the bot and which parameters are already present in a citation.

Happy editing!


Tips and Tricks is a general editing advice column written by experienced editors. If you have suggestions for a topic, or want to submit your own advice, follow these links and let us know (or comment below)!



Reader comments


A pen on a sheet of paper.

Wikidata is a knowledge base associated with Wikipedia. Querying Wikidata to get insights is a very hard job. Fortunately, the Item documentation template can help querying Wikidata in one click using generic queries. The template is now automatically displayed in the header of each item's talk page.

Let's take an example. Imagine I want to complete an article about a small French town like Épinal. From the Wikipedia article, I can get to the Wikidata item Épinal (Q173695) using the menu. Then I can switch to the talk page Talk:Q173695. In the header of the talk page, I should see the item's documentation.

In the first section, I can find a link to a magic query which returns "All claims about Épinal" (try it, and don't forget to press the blue 'play' button). This provides an overview of all I can find about Épinal in Wikidata. For instance I get the list of items located in the administrative territorial entity Épinal, the list of people whose place of birth is Épinal, and the list of people whose place of death is Épinal.

Item documentation Épinal 1.png In the first part of the template, I find a link to the query "All claims about Épinal"

Let's go further to the "Generic queries for administrative territorial entities" section. This section provides generic SPARQL queries for administrative territorial entities such as towns, regions, countries, and districts. It is generated using Template:TP administrative area. Clicking on "Places in Épinal", I can find a full list of items located in Épinal (see here).

Item documentation Épinal 2.png In this part, I find many queries based on geography. For instance, the map of places or the list of organizations with their headquarters in Épinal.

Further down in the page, I find the list of "People born in Épinal, sorted by number of sitelinks" (see here). The number of sitelinks is the number of pages in the different wikipedias. This can be very useful to complete the "Notable people" section of the article.

Item documentation Épinal 3.png Here we find queries related to people born in Épinal, dead in Épinal, living in Épinal or buried in Épinal.

Of course, Wikidata's data is not perfect. We should complete insights from Wikidata with reliable sources. But the Item documentation template makes it easier to get insights from Wikidata in order to complete Wikipedia articles. Any feedback about the template is welcome on the template's talk page.



Reader comments


As Russia's open invasion of Ukraine has entered its sixth month, the lives of Ukrainians – and Ukrainian Wikimedians – are still greatly affected by the war. In this edition, we cover three stories of people during the war – serving in the army, volunteering, and just doing their jobs.

Author, school principal and Wikipedian – Svitlana Diachok’s story

Svitlana Diachok in 2018
Svitlana Diachok during Wikimedia Ukraine’s general meeting in 2018
Svitlana Diachok at the award ceremony of the photo contest Wiki loves Monuments 2018

Svitlana Diachok is a teacher, PhD in literature, and the author of several handbooks on literature. She is also an active editor of Wikipedia and a member of Wikimedia Ukraine.

In January, Svitlana won the competition for the position of school principal in a school in the city of Khorostkiv in the Ternopil region – an educational institution with over 560 students and almost 50 teachers.

The next month, Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine began. Today Svitlana combines administrative work, teaching, writing books and volunteering during the war. In an interview with us, she discussed her work and life in these hard times.

Education and volunteering during the war

Svitlana Diachok has dedicated her life to teaching. Throughout her career, she went from a primary school teaching assistant to the head of an educational institution – since January, she leads a school in the Ukrainian city of Khorostkiv.

When the full-scale war started, the educational process continued, but in an online format. It was a challenge, but the school was well prepared for distance learning since the beginning of the pandemic, Svitlana recalls. (Khorostkiv is located in the west of Ukraine, a part of the country that has been affected by Russia’s rocket attacks but has not seen on-the-ground fighting. Thus, it’s been a place for internally displaced persons from frontline eastern and southern regions).

At the same time, school employees and students actively engaged in wartime volunteering. They collected food and clothes for soldiers and internally displaced persons, wove camouflage nets for the army, and looked for medicines for maternity hospitals.

Some people who moved from other regions of Ukraine received shelter in one of the buildings of the school led by Svitlana. She says the school helps them with food and other necessities — but also involves them in local activities to help integrate into the local community. For example, they spent a week learning the region’s traditions before Easter.

At the same time, Svitlana continues other professional activities apart from administrative work. She teaches Ukrainian literature in several classes and also writes books.

How does she manage to combine everything? The secret to the correct allocation of time is “using every minute in your life productively”. For example, Svitlana’s daily half-hour commute is not wasted time, but an opportunity to think about an important work problem or make a phone call.

Svitlana says that she always tries to combine several tasks and responsibilities: for example, writing a book and at the same time thinking through ideas about school management.

Wikipedia in school — Svitlana Diachok’s experience

Svitlana Diachok has been an active Wikipedia editor for over six years and a member of the Wikimedia Ukraine NGO for four years. She is a co-author of the handbook “Using Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects in school” and has organized many activities to involve students in the wikispace.

Svitlana says that she had many plans to integrate Wikipedia into the educational process when she became the head of a large school. Of course, the Russian invasion changed plans, so it hasn’t been possible to carry out everything planned.

Still, Svitlana singles out three achievements that she managed to implement this year. The first is the Wikimarathon for Wikipedia's birthday at the end of January. 12 people took part in a training session, many of them became interested in editing the online encyclopedia.

During the war, through distance learning, Svitlana used Wikipedia in lessons for the 5th and 6th grades. The lesson begins with students reviewing Wikipedia’s main page – students look at who was born on this day and choose one most notable person. For 10–11 years old children, it is important to be involved in the encyclopedia in this way, Svitlana says.

Svitlana also says that, as a teacher of literature, she actively uses Wikiquote – together with her students, they improve Wikiquote articles with quotes from literature works read in class.

If everything goes according to plan, from the beginning of the new school year, Svitlana’s students will also learn to edit and create Wikipedia articles.

Nature protection and battles at the forefront – Oleg Andros’ story

Oleg Andros (left) at an awards ceremony in 2018
Oleg Andros (center) at an environmental protest in 2014
Oleg Andros' photo that won a third place in the nomination “Human Rights and Environment” in the international Wiki Loves Earth round. The title is: “Don’t burn our houses!” Beavers' action to protect the forests of Polissia, Ukraine

Oleg Andros is a photographer, musician, environmental activist, and an active participant of the Wiki Loves Earth photo contest.

Before the war, Oleg was actively involved in nature protection. He lobbied for the creation of nature reserves in Kyiv, the preservation of Zhukiv Island, Lysa Hora and other protected areas in Ukraine. At the same time, he is fond of photography. Since 2000, he has amassed a large archive of photographs, which he periodically uploads to Commons.

In 2021, Oleg took part in the Ukrainian part of Wiki Loves Earth. His photos won all five prizes in the special nomination “Protection of nature sites”.

One of his photos also won a third place in the nomination “Human Rights and Environment” in the international Wiki Loves Earth round. It depicts a picket on November 22, 2013 against deforestation in Ukraine. The action included folk songs and a dramatic duel between a beaver and a lumberjack.

On the eve of Russia’s full-scale invasion, on February 21 this year, Oleg opened his fourth solo photo exhibition “The Touch of Otherworld” at the Little Opera in Kyiv. At the same time, he got a new job – Oleg is an editor at the Kyiv Youth Library.

On February 24, Oleg woke up at six am. His mother told him that the Russians were bombing Vasylkiv airport near Kyiv. He grabbed his essentials and headed to Bila Tserkva through traffic jams.

In 2015, Oleg Andros served in the Armed Forces of Ukraine fighting Russian-backed terrorists in the eastern Donetsk region. As a military reservist, he immediately went to the military office. On the first day of the 2022 Russian invasion, he was assigned to a unit that got sent to the frontline. Oleg's service takes place in various regions: from the Brovary district in the Kyiv region, back when Russian troops were near Kyiv, to Sumy, Kharkiv and Donetsk regions.

“During the Anti-Terrorist Operation [war in eastern Ukraine since 2014] I didn't see much because I served in the brigade headquarters. But I compensated for it during the 2022 invasion. Now I know the sound of different artillery shells; I know what it's like to ride a combat vehicle a few hundred kilometers away”, Oleg Andros says.

Currently, Oleg’s battalion is defending the eastern Donetsk region. In his unit, he performs the duties of the personnel officer, handling administrative work. Oleg is constantly on the front line.

During the war, Oleg continued to participate in the activities of environmental organizations. In particular, in March, he helped evacuate 62 cats from the Kyiv Zoo. There are still 45 animals left in this cat shelter, they are helped by the NGO “Nature First”, co-founded by Oleg.

Oleg hasn’t had the time to contribute to Wikipedia during the invasion, but he found time to take some good photos. One of them was exhibited in a Kyiv library in the spring.

Read more about Oleg and his views on war and philosophy in the articles he published in April and July.

Covering the war on Wikipedia – Yuri Perohanych’s story

Yuri Perohanych in 2021
Yuri Perohanych delivers a lecture for the Maidan Open University, a civil initiative that emerged during the 2013–2014 democratic protests in Ukraine

Yuri Perohanych (user Perohanych) is a civil society activist, Wikipedia editor for more than fifteen years, co-founder of the Wikimedia Ukraine NGO, and former member of the international Funds Dissemination Committee.

Russian invasion caught Yuri in Kyiv, where he lives. After a sleepless night in a bomb shelter, he went with his 9-year-old son and wife to Ukraine’s west. The road from the capital to a village in the Lviv region some 600 kilometers away was difficult and took more than 60 hours without sleep (including 30 hours in the car).

Yuri says his family had planned to go to Poland, but they ended up deciding to stay in Ukraine. After the Kyiv region had been liberated, they returned from Western Ukraine to Kyiv.

In the first days of the war, Yuri doubled down on his Wikipedia activity. He quickly began covering the war on Wikipedia; on March 1, he initiated a thematic campaign with a goal to cover the invasion – which has been the most popular topic for Ukrainian Wikipedia readers – and prevent the dissemination of Russian propaganda on Wikipedia.

In the first two weeks, participants of the initiative created over 130 articles; within a month, the number reached 220. Thus, Yuri decided to convert the initiative into a permanent project called “Resistance to the Russian invasion of Ukraine”. Yuri also created a portal of the same name.

The project aims to collect and systematize all articles related to Russia's invasion of Ukraine from February 24, 2022; the armed annexation of Crimea and the war in Donbas, which began in 2014.

Yuri says that this initiative has been the largest project he has ever implemented on Wikipedia. In parallel, he has taken on administrative duties on Ukrainian Wikipedia, receiving temporary admin rights to help with the project’s maintenance and fight vandalism at the time when many editors could not exercise their duties.

Also, Yuri has worked on the promotion of free licenses. Through his connections in the Ukrainian government, Yuri received multiple permissions to publish on Wikiprojects various materials from governmental media under the terms of a Creative Commons license.

In addition to working on Wikipedia, Yuri spends a lot of time on other volunteering. For example, he assists with the purchase and delivery of components for energy bars for soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Territorial Defense Forces.

Yuri’s day job is director of the Association of Information Technology Enterprises of Ukraine. His work involves developing the Ukrainian IT sector and improving Ukraine’s business sector more broadly.



Reader comments


This month we have a submission from regular Signpost contributor and Picture of the Day coordinator Adam Cuerden, who explains how to research an image. This essay is not yet published elsewhere on Wikipedia, so please enjoy this first reading.E

Sometimes, you might want to use an image, but key details aren't known. Let's look at this picture of Tom Taylor from the Library of Congress I stumbled across the other day:

Lovely! Given the lead image of Tom Taylor's article looked like this before:

...this new image will make a great addition (not that the old one's bad, just not as good). And that... surprising attribution of the old photo should probably be filed away to double check. But the new image had a problem: The Library of Congress information page on it has (or possibly had) certain gaps:


It also doesn't/didn't list a photographer at all. (Spoilers for later, but contacting the archive about your discoveries is an important step in doing research properly, so there's a chance I'll be describing things that aren't the case anymore, because they listened to me.)

So, how do you deal with this? Well, first thing I do is go into Google's image search and Google "Tom Taylor", and see if another copy of the photo comes up.

... At which point we learn that the list of names on Tom Taylor (disambiguation) is going to be a problem. Especially the actor. Let's try again with "Tom Taylor playwright".

That gets us to a WorthPoint entry – which is nearly useless, but tells us a copy of this image is on eBay. Worth a shot. Searching for Tom Taylor on eBay gets us to here, which is much more useful:


That's actually quite useful, and, since there's no real reason to disbelieve it, especially as the seller has a few dozen other prints in this style, which means they probably cut up that book, we have a start. Let's check Lock and Whitfield. Searching for them gets us to the United Kingdom's National Portrait Gallery, with, for example, this portrait of Yeames in the same style. Poking around there, and we can identify Lock and Whitfield as Samuel Robert Lock (1822–1881) and George Carpe Whitfield (1831–1917).

Copyright has checked out, there's some backup for our attribution. We're doing well. Would be better if we had a stronger source, but it's not bad, and it's fairly checkable if we can find the book.

I'd like to say that I then did sensible things to get the rest of the information. Like maybe find the National Portrait Gallery copy of this image with most of the information that I found after all of this was over. I got confused by how the National Gallery presented information, didn't click through, and missed it completely. Which is honestly a good example of how unfamiliarity with an archive – the United Kingdom's National Portrait Gallery has had a somewhat rocky relationship with Wikipedia, so I don't use it much – can cause you to miss things in your research.

What I did was go to Wikidata:Q2329794 and put the image in. While typing the file name, it makes suggestions for files you might mean with little thumbnails, and...

... Well! Lower left hand corner. "Lock and Whitfield". We have a match! And the Rijksmuseum is a great source. Let's go to the link and see if we can confirm the other information we have...

A couple clicks later, and I'm looking at the Rijksmuseum entry of the book Men of Mark – which has all the information we need and more. It even has a publication date for the book!

Update all the image information, and now there's only one thing left to do: On the Library of Congress site, there's a section called "Ask a Librarian". Librarians, in my experience, are delighted when you help identify things in their collections. So, link the page for the image in question, pull up the Rijksmuseum documentation, and send off an email. Because improvements aren't just for Wikipedia.

Now if only I could figure out if Lewis Carroll was really going around photographing playwrights.

(As it turns out – remembering Carroll's real name is Charles Dodgson – he actually photographed a bunch of his famous friends. Who knew?)



Reader comments


Wikimedia Research Newsletter Logo.png
A monthly overview of recent academic research about Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, also published as the Wikimedia Research Newsletter.
Abstract art of "Wikipedia research"

"Rules and Rule-Making in the Five Largest Wikipedias"

This paper[1] presented recently at the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM 2022) analyzes 780 community rule pages (including the English Wikipedia's policies and guidelines) on the five Wikipedias with the largest active editor numbers: English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish. Examining "almost 100 years of data aggregated across [these] five communities" (i.e. the revision histories of these rule pages and their associated talk pages, from each project's founding until 2020), the authors find that these

... follow similar patterns in rule-related editing over twenty years, having a rapid initial surge in activity followed by stabilization and a shift towards discussing rules rather than editing them. However, the five Wikipedias also follow distinct trajectories. Further, the language editions’ rules overlap less over time, producing increasingly differentiated rule sets even as most activity focuses on widely-shared rules.

In a literature review, the authors (Sohyeon Hwang and Aaron Shaw from Northwestern University, both members of the Community Data Science Collective) note contrasting earlier research results that indicated either that "the self-governing efforts of communities will be similar because they are shaped by shared sociotechnical characteristics" (as earlier research coauthored by Shaw had found in case of some non-Wikipedia wikis, see our review: "Iron Law of Oligarchy" (1911) confirmed on Wikia wikis), or instead "different due to the sheer diversity of communities’ membership, goals, or organizational culture."

Regarding English Wikipedia, the paper extends an earlier analysis by Keegan and Fiesler (see our earlier note: English Wikipedia still engaged in rule-making, but with "strong shift toward deliberation").

The authors summarize their main contributions as follows:

(1) we provide evidence that large, well-established Wikipedia language editions follow similar patterns of rule creation and organizational formalization, replicating and extending prior work that focused predominately on English Wikipedia; (2) we show that communities with the same goals, technical infrastructures, and similar organizational trajectories develop substantial and sustainable institutional variations; and (3) we highlight the importance of broad, widely-shared rules created early on in communities’ histories.

In their first research question, they examine "patterns of rule-making over time". First, they find that

"Rule creation follows similar, but distinct patterns across the wikis in our sample. [...] In general, most rules are created early. For all language editions, years 2–6 see the most rule page creation. Japanese Wikipedia is an exception, with 25% of its rules created in its first year (year 0) [... A closer analysis of these year-0 rules] suggests that Japanese Wikipedia boot strapped its core rules from the older English Wikipedia, rather than pursuing a divergent rule-making approach."

Regarding the edits to existing rules, "The median number of rule-related revisions each year per rule [Figure 2b] rises initially, peaks around year 5, and then declines in all language editions." A plot of the ratio of revisions on rule pages vs. (rule) talk pages (Figure 2c) shows a general downwards trend on all five Wikipedias, indicating that as the projects grew and matured, more discussion was needed to change rules. It indicates that English and German have reached the lowest ratios (but also having remained mostly flat since around 2012), while French, Japanese and (especially) Spanish retain higher ratios.

The authors note that their findings on "rule-related stabilization alongside formalization of self-governance" are consistent with earlier research on (mainly) English Wikipedia that had characterized these such patterns as "“diminishing flexibility to change [rules]” (Keegan and Fiesler 2017), “policy calcification” (Halfaker et al. 2013), and “entrenchment” (Halfaker et al. 2013; TeBlunthuis, Shaw, and Hill 2018)". As these wording choices indicate, these trends have generally been framed as undesirable by various researchers, although a theoretical justification for this is lacking - after all, producing rules and maximizing their change rate is generally not a primary goal of online communities. And while a community with higher hurdles on making and changing rules may be less appealing for contributors who enjoy engaging in these activities, the vast majority of community members who merely follow these rules might prefer stability.

The paper's second research question examines "How do the sets of rules become more or less similar over time" across the five different Wikipedias. The authors rely on interlanguage links to relate corresponding rules, finding that

"About 28% of all rule pages are shared across all five language editions. [...] the majority of rules in all five wikis are shared and connected by ILLs, but the rule sets increasingly contain rules that are unique or shared with just one other language edition. Moreover, the proportion of rules connected by ILLs in each wiki has stabilized [...] the presence of community-specific rules is more obvious in the two larger language editions, English and German. Notably, we find that community-specific rules are not the focus of rule-related revision activity in any community, which instead goes towards rules shared across all five language editions."


"Wikipedia: a self-organizing bureaucracy", in "an erratic and, above all, contested process"

In this paper,[2] from Information, Communication & Society, three Netherlands-based sociologists present a historical analysis of bureaucratization and power concentration vs. power diffusion in Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation. It covers the timespan from 1999 (when Nupedia was launched, two years before Wikipedia's founding) until 2017. The analysis is "based on 118 conversations and interviews" with "Wikipedians and board and staff members of both the WMF and local WMF chapters [in particular Wikimedia Nederland] who have played an influential role in Wikipedia’s evolution" and other community members, "as well as extensive archival research" and a literature review. On the theory side, the paper draws from Robert Michels and Max Weber "to study mechanisms pushing towards or away from power concentration and bureaucratization." Overall,

"In line with Weber, we identify a process of progressive bureaucratization. This does not only result from the pursuit of organizational manageability, but from a quest for democratic equality and minimization of domination as well. We introduce the concept of self-organizing bureaucratization to highlight how bureaucratization is the unintended and emergent outcome of efforts to increase democratic accountability."

The authors conclude that "an essential amendment to Michels’s and Weber’s theories is that these processes are not unilinear or mechanical. Our research rather shows an erratic and, above all, contested process."


Briefly

Other recent publications

Other recent publications that could not be covered in time for this issue include the items listed below. Contributions, whether reviewing or summarizing newly published research, are always welcome.

"Assessing the impact of translation guidelines in Wikipedia: A praxeological approach to the study of documented standards across four language communities"

From the abstract:[3]

"[...] this paper adopts a praxeological approach to translation by analysing documented standards across four Wikipedia language communities and the extent to which 16 experienced translators have assimilated them. The findings suggest that Wikipedia guidelines on translation have slight but tangible differences across the communities under investigation. Moreover, the interview data showed a tendency among participants to attach more importance to cross-wiki editing policies than to any local translation guidelines."


"Edit volume in the English Wikipedia increased during COVID-19 mobility restrictions" (figure from the paper)

"Volunteer contributions to Wikipedia increased during COVID-19 mobility restrictions"

From the abstract:[4]

"When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and mobility restrictions ensued across the globe, it was unclear whether contributions to Wikipedia would decrease in the face of the pandemic, or whether volunteers would withstand the added stress and increase their contributions to accommodate the growing readership uncovered in recent studies. We analyze 223 million edits contributed from 2018 to 2020 across twelve Wikipedia language editions and find that Wikipedia’s global volunteer community responded resiliently to the pandemic, substantially increasing both productivity and the number of newcomers who joined the community. For example, contributions to the English Wikipedia increased by over 20% compared to the expectation derived from pre-pandemic data."


Intercultural survey on what motivates Wikipedia editors

From the English abstract:[5]

"Wikipedians [...] consolidate personal resources to manage comprehensive aggregation of free knowledge. [...] the question of the driving forces of this prosocial behaviour is still open. [...] we conducted a content analysis of a transnational survey. The recipients were 65 authors of multilingual Wikipedia segments (83% males and 17% females) with average experience of 9.9 years compilation of encyclopedic articles.

Results. [... In] most cases Wikipedians find a number of personal significant reasons for participating in the Wikipedia, the reasons resonating with their inner essence.

Conclusion. The internal value orientations of Wikipedians include: self-development (self-improvement, self-assertion, self-realization); reciprocal (mutual) altruism; a tendency to high quality and systematization of knowledge; a pleasure of creation; autonomy; recreation (hobby, entertainment); meaningfulness; preservation of personal heritage. The external value orientations include: preservation and development of the cultural heritage / language segment; promotion and popularization of Wikipedia (its ideology and principles); low transaction costs and convenience (attractiveness) of the system; affiliation; social identity; improvement peace («Weltverbesserungs Antrieb»); building bridges between cultures and languages."

References

  1. ^ Hwang, Sohyeon; Shaw, Aaron (2022-05-31). "Rules and Rule-Making in the Five Largest Wikipedias". Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media. 16: 347–357. ISSN 2334-0770.
  2. ^ Rijshouwer, Emiel; Uitermark, Justus; de Koster, Willem (2021-10-28). "Wikipedia: a self-organizing bureaucracy". Information, Communication & Society: 1–18. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2021.1994633. ISSN 1369-118X. S2CID 240255412.
  3. ^ Góngora-Goloubintseff, José Gustavo (2022-02-24). "Assessing the impact of translation guidelines in Wikipedia: A praxeological approach to the study of documented standards across four language communities". doi:10.1075/ts.21028.gon. S2CID 247120313. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help) closed access manuscript draft
  4. ^ Ruprechter, Thorsten; Horta Ribeiro, Manoel; Santos, Tiago; Lemmerich, Florian; Strohmaier, Markus; West, Robert; Helic, Denis (2021-11-02). "Volunteer contributions to Wikipedia increased during COVID-19 mobility restrictions". Scientific Reports. 11 (1): 21505. arXiv:2102.10090. Bibcode:2021NatSR..1121505R. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-00789-3. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 8563865. PMID 34728670.
  5. ^ E.A., Bryzgalin (2020). "Intercultural analysis of value orientations of Wikipedia authors" (PDF). National Psychological Journal. 13 (1): 3–17. doi:10.11621/npj.2020.0101. ISSN 2079-6617. S2CID 219451953. (in Russian, with English abstract and tables)



Reader comments


In this article, long-time Signpost contributor Vysotsky discusses the magically-stark contrast of images versus encyclopedic text.E
CRAIYON-REALESRGAN-A professional painting of teachers screaming at students about citations in a classroom.jpg
Students, teachers, and Wikipedia: a tale told countless times

The Library

One of the best books published last year is the book The Library. A Fragile History by Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen. It is a scholarly book, with a 16 page index and 787 notes, but it is lightly written and very readable. It contains 18 chapters, mostly dedicated to a particular subject like “Idle Books and Riff Raff” (from Oxford to Franeker), “Cardinal Errors” (about Richelieu) and “Reading on the Job” (with the Carnegie story). The authors, both researchers at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, succeed in painting a clear picture of the history of the library as such, in only 518 pages, drawn upon some outstanding examples. True, they forgot most Asian and African libraries (6 pages on China, 3 on Japan, 1 on Timbuktu), but these will be dealt with in a new book, I presume.

Sum of all knowledge? But "not considered to be a reliable source"

Wikipedia is the Library of the 21st century. At least, it aspires to be, and to give “free access to the sum of all human knowledge” is a clear goal. Though Wikipedia is a tremendous tool of knowledge, Wiki is only starting to summarize some of the knowledge in the world. But it is a start, and I wouldn’t have dedicated ten thousand hours of my life to Wikipedia if I wouldn’t have been convinced that it will prove to be a useful library – somewhere in the future.

Wikipedia has five pillars and a content policy, which states that articles may not contain original research. Rightly so. That makes understandable why universities advise students NOT to cite Wikipedia: scholars should learn to cite the original source, not a shortened and simplified version of it in Wikipedia. Most universities (for example, this one) therefore advise to use the sources and literature references in Wikipedia, but not the text in Wikipedia itself. It comes as no surprise, that Wikipedia advises the same: “Wikipedia is not considered to be a reliable source as not everything in Wikipedia is accurate, comprehensive, or unbiased.”

Usage of images from Commons

Wikimedia Commons is a different story. I read the book The Library. A Fragile History, which contained 52 images. Ten of these images (so roughly 20%) were library photographs taken from Wikimedia Commons (see below). Another ten were probably also indirectly taken from Commons, but the original source was given (again: rightly so). It is only logical that scholars use Wikimedia Commons for recent photographs from libraries in Egypt, Turkey, Austria, San Francisco and Manchester. More interesting is to see that three of the images were taken from library collections: no. 3 (Codex Amiatinus), no 8 (National Gallery of Art, Washington) and no. 9 (Braunschweig). The image from the National Gallery of Art was donated during a Wiki Commons project of the NGA. The Braunschweig image was originally uploaded from the website of Arbeitsgemeinschaft historischer Forschungseinrichtungen, closed down in 2013.

Needless to say that photographs like this file wouldn’t have been used in this book if they hadn’t been uploaded by the Dutch Heritage Foundation RCE to Commons in 2013. Any other conclusions? Well, cooperation pays off, and Libraries and Museums are right in working together with Wikimedia Commons - and good photos might end up in books.

10 images from Commons used in The Library. A Fragile History (2021)



Reader comments


A bit of an odd gallery this month: I thought it might be fun to have a look at the parts of theatre which are not all that visible to audiences, including a few of the lethal things theatrical performers had to put up with not so long ago. So let's start our investigation with possibly the most lethal bit of (once) commonly used theatrical equipment:

Star traps were a type of trap door where a sort of see-saw was used to launch a person up from below at high speed – allowing them to do some acrobatic pose in mid air – after which they would come back down to stage level and land on the star trap after the nasty pointy spikes had fallen back into place (hopefully). And if the points hadn't fallen back in place... Well, there's a reason that they're banned now. Bram Stoker knew their dangers well:

This is a good example of the setup of a large modern (or, at least, modernised) theatre. To the the right, one can see the safety curtain partially blocking the view out. While often given a cloth-like look on the audience side, when viewed from the on-stage (where the audience can't see) many of them are clearly big reinforced metal frames. Because of the systems of pulleys and counterweights, they come down quite smoothly, which further gives the impression they're just a normal curtain. Of course, not all of them are metal, some are made from highly fire-retardant fabric. And from the same lethal side of theatre that once brought you the star trap, there were once "safety" curtains made of asbestos. We don't have pictures of those, but we do have pictures of the sane ones:

In these views of iron safety curtains, the first shows one without the fabric covering that normally hides its true nature from the audience, while the second shows one with the fabric covering. Also shown is the handle that drops the safety curtain, or fire curtain in American parlance. The idea of the safety curtain is that, if there's a fire, it separates the backstage from the front of house, which helps cut off the fire's air supply and slow its spread. And what happened before we had these devices in place?

Covent Garden Theatre burned down completely in 1808. This image dates from around 1856. Why so much time between the two? Because this is a picture of it burning down... for the second time, in 1856. Note how the fire is spreading between stage and audience – exactly the scenario safety curtains are meant to prevent.

The safety curtain can be quickly raised and lowered thanks to a system of counterweights and pulleys that allow curtains, backdrops, and even pieces of set to be raised and lowered without substantial difficulty. Metal pipes, called battens, are hung from ropes. The curtains, lighter bits of set, lights, and the occasional special effect device (like a container to drop confetti) can all be hung from them. Further, by lowering them nearer the stage, the need for ladders is greatly diminished.

Finally, we need to build a set. This is traditionally made with a series of flats – freestanding walls that can be painted and decorated – as well as platforms, steps which act like any other set of stairs except for being more mobile. The effect can be quite visually stunning if done well:

Of course, this is a sampler. Perhaps your performance is going to be on a giant rotating set, often divided into halves or thirds, so that any redecoration can be done while acting is going on in the part of the stage facing forwards. This trick is also often done by having a scene in front of a curtain, whether the main curtain of the theatre or a backdrop near the front of the stage. Perhaps it's a minimalist set, where the audience's imagination and actor's reactions are meant to sell the scene. Perhaps you're doing a megamusical and have turned the whole stage into a roller skating rink so your actors can pretend to be toy trains being played with by a child (yes, that's a thing). Theatre can be strange, weird, and endlessly creative, so there's only so much that can be explained in the format of a gallery.



Reader comments



This article first appeared ten years ago, back when the Signpost was weekly, in the 23 July 2012 issue. In the light of recent events with Russian Wikipedia, it seems much more ominous than it likely did back then...


Vladimir Medeyko gives the acceptance speech for the award of the Runet Prize in 2009 ("Science and education" category), founded and co-funded by the government communications agency FAPMC to honour top Russian-language websites. Ironically, the Russian Wikipedia community, which has won the award three times, now finds itself at loggerheads with the government.
Key player ... Nikolai Nikiforov, Russian minister for information, appointed just eight weeks ago
The areas in which Russian is an official language (blue) and where it is widely spoken (green)
Two weeks ago we reported that the Russian Wikipedia had just begun a 24-hour blackout. The move—implemented after on-wiki consensus was reached during the preceding days—was in protest at a bill before the Russian parliament that proposed mechanisms to block IP addresses and DNS records, with the potential to allow extra-judicial censorship of the internet in Russia; ultimately, this could include the closure of access to the Russian Wikipedia.

The Russian community's action was the third protest of its kind, after the SOPA/PIPA shutdown on the English Wikipedia last January and the Italian Wikipedia blackout last October over a new privacy bill. The English-language shutdown played a major role in the dumping of the Congressional proposal, and while the Russian and Italian bills still passed, the community-led protests in those two countries appear to have exerted influence in making them less objectionable to the movement's goals of achieving internet freedom.

The Wikimedia Foundation's head of communications, Jay Walsh, posted a message of support to the volunteers of the Russian Wikipedia: "... many in the Wikimedia movement recognize that this legislation is similar to other bills being proposed or passed around the world that could hinder free speech and produce situations where governments could censor information. Non-censorship and freedom of speech are core values of the Wikimedia movement and the Wikimedia Foundation."

Among the questions now are how effective the blackout was and where we go from here in terms of internet freedom in one of the world's biggest and most influential countries. The head of Wikimedia Russia, Vladimir Medeyko, told the Signpost that despite the passage of the law, the blackout had gained wide publicity. "It was reported in newspapers and on all major domestic Russian TV channels, as well as on the Russian CNN channel, Ukrainian TV news, and the Mir company, which also broadcasts in Kazakhstan. Overall, they took a fairly even-handed angle in their reporting."

But Medeyko anticipates no more blackouts in Russia: "I think it would look too political. One action is fine—it's effective. But if we did it again, in the Russian political culture it would be laughed at as an overtly political ploy."

There are two immediate aftermaths, he says: first, some changes were made in the wording of the bill that do slightly reduce the likelihood of misuse; and second, senior government officials gave Wikimedians assurances that the law will not be used to suppress freedom of speech on the internet, and agreed to make efforts to improve the situation by further amending bills or regulations. Further amendments may be scheduled for November and will be considered by two government committees before then—one instigated by Elena Mizulina, a member of the Duma and one of the main authors and proponents of the amendment; and one by Nikolai Nikiforov, the Russian minister for information who, like all ministers, reports to president Putin through prime minister Medvedev, and is not a member of the Duma.

The Russian Wikipedia community has been invited to make submissions to both committees. Medeyko told us, "I caught up with Mizulina immediately after the voting for the bill, during which she assurred us we would have input into the process. Mizulina is the head of the Duma's committee on family, women, and children—one of the overt concerns of the bill was to act against child pornography on the internet. "Both Nikiforov and Mizulina use the Russian Wikipedia as far as I know," he says, "but are unlikely to have edited it."

On a scale from 1 (no freedom) to 10 (complete freedom), Medeyko rates internet freedom in Russia around 5, down from 6 before the amendments. Given this, we asked what he believes are the minimum, politically realistic changes to the law that would give the country acceptable internet freedom. "There should be a clear definition of the reasons that would justify shutting down a site; there should be a feasible procedure to quickly restore a site after fair and open judicial review; and we need independent and just courts—but the last requirement may involve complex issues that are difficult to resolve in the short term." The Russian community will be discussing their input on-wiki, which will be formally put to the government committees by the chapter.

How powerful is the bureaucracy compared with the politicians themselves? Do the bureaucrats make the real decisions? Medeyko says "I think it's a mix. The policians tended to express pro-Wikipedia, pro-internet opinion as a reaction to the blackout, since it's not in their interests to alienate online users in Russia. This is a good start in our negotiations with the bureaucrats."

Medeyko's overall take is optimistic. "The chapter hopes that this phase in our relationship with the government will be productive and will reinforce both freedom on the Russian-language internet and the independence of Wikimedia projects in our language."




Reader comments




Reader comments

If articles have been updated, you may need to refresh the single-page edition.