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Carrying on without an official Editor-in-Chief, we – the collective Signpost newsroom team – also wear editor hats. We hope you appreciate the Nobel, err, noble efforts of several guest contributors in this issue, as well as our own. Herein, you will find a concise corpus of debates, data, and distraction for edification and enjoyment, an important article about an upcoming vote for New pages patrol software enhancements, and a reprint of a key Signpost interview with Sue Gardner, a former executive director of the WMF.

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Photograph of Donna Strickland presenting Steve Chu with the Advocate of Optics Award at The Optical Society's leadership meeting in 2013
Donna Strickland and Steven Chu in 2013, among the images freely licensed by The Optical Society and released, with the help of Tinynull, to support volunteer work on Wikipedia
This month's op-ed is presented by three contributors who each have a different perspective on the events surrounding the biography on Donna Strickland, the Nobel Prize winner announced earlier this month.

What Donna Strickland can teach us about the media and ourselves

Black-and-white portrait photograph of Nettie Stevens in 1904 wearing a large black hat and formal attire
Nettie Stevens, geneticist
Portrait photograph of Vera Rubin in 2009
Vera Rubin, astronomer
Black-and-white portrait photograph of Henrietta Swan Leavitt
Henrietta Leavitt, astronomer
Black-and-white portrait photograph of Selma Lagerlöf in 1909
Selma Lagerlöf, Nobel Prize in Literature

All eyes this month were on the newest round of Nobel laureates being announced—that is, all eyes that weren't squarely focused on Wikipedia's coverage of one newly minted Nobel laureate in particular, Donna Strickland, who on 2 October became the third woman ever to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. As it turns out, we had an article on her previously: it was first deleted in 2014 as a copyright violation. Then, a draft at Articles for Creation was declined in May of this year for insufficient sourcing.

All this caused quite a stir, to say the least. But what was striking, at least to me, was not that it garnered as much attention as it did (the gender gap on Wikipedia is something many of us have been talking about for years), but instead how much of that attention seemed to completely miss the mark and, in many cases, reveal a fundamental misunderstanding among the media about what Wikipedia is and how it works.

Some targets are clearly just too easy. CNN-News18 offered up a mostly laughable collage of grossly uninformed tweets which would have you believe that "[e]very single @Wikipedia editor who voted against an entry for Dr. Donna Strickland needs to have their editing and voting privileges suspended for 6 months", as if we need to have a recount. Needless to say, Wikipedia does not work that way.

Other, more serious journalism still manages their own myriad problems. The Times called Strickland's winning the Nobel "one way to win a Wikipedia editing war", from which we can only conclude that they simply don't know what an edit war is. Fortune originally wrote that the draft had been deleted, while at the same time linking to the draft itself, which could be linked because, of course, it hadn't actually been deleted. To their credit, however, they at least amended their story on 5 October after I sent them an email.

One common theme appearing in a number of publications was that, in all their writing about Wikipedia, no one had apparently taken the time to read our policy on notability (we even have an article on it!) and had no indication how Articles for Creation works. The Guardian lambasted us for determining that Strickland was "not important enough", Business Insider for saying "she wasn't famous enough", with The Daily Beast echoing that she was "not famous enough for Wikipedia". Naturally, if they had taken the time to read our policy on notability, they would have made it to the fifth sentence noting that "[d]etermining notability does not necessarily depend on things such as fame, importance, or popularity" (emphasis in original). All this is notwithstanding the fact that rejections at Articles for Creation are not the end of the line, but are an avenue to provide feedback so that users can improve their submissions, make them ready for the mainspace, and finally publish them. Even Wikimedia Foundation director Katherine Maher, in her piece in the Los Angeles Times, fails to elucidate the difference between non-notable and not-ready-to-publish.

Another common theme was to point out that Gérard Mourou, who shared the prize with Strickland, had an article as early as 2005, as did The Independent, The Cut, and Vox. None of them seemed to notice, as Ian Ramjohn from the Wiki Education Foundation points out in his own post, that "[s]ince 2007, across the fields of Physics, Chemistry, and Physiology and Medicine, 91 scientists have received Nobel Prizes. Twelve of them, including Donna Strickland, didn't have a Wikipedia biography until after their Nobel Prize was announced."

Perhaps my favorite is again from Vox, who opine that "[w]omen scientists like Vera Rubin, Nettie Stevens, Henrietta Leavitt, Rosalind Franklin, and so many others ought to be just as famous." Or, as I like to put it: "Women scientists like Vera Rubin Symbol support vote.svg, Nettie Stevens Symbol c class.svg, Henrietta Leavitt Symbol support vote.svg, Rosalind Franklin Symbol b class.svg, and so many others ought to be just as famous."

All this quickly resulted in Ed Erhart publishing his own response in the new Foundation website, attempting to summarize the events. Meanwhile, in her LA Times piece, Maher rightly recognizes that the gender gap is a serious issue that many people are working hard to combat, not least of whom are people in the vanguard like WikiProject Women in Red and WikiProject Women scientists. As she points out, these efforts have culminated in 86,182 new English-language biographies of women, which "works out to 72 new articles a day, every single day, for the past three and a half years." That is only 17.82% of biographies, however, so we've still got a ways to go.

But the relevant timeline the Foundation gives us, mirroring that offered by a number of sources, is this:

  • 28 March 2018 – "a new volunteer Wikipedia editor ("Campbpt0") used the English Wikipedia's 'articles for creation' process to submit a draft for review"
  • 23 May 2018 – "a volunteer editor declined it"

I'd like to propose an alternative timeline:

Among the content released by The Optical Society is this video, which was relicensed for upload onto Wikimedia Commons, with subtitles added in six languages

So while the media spent the days following the Nobel Prize announcement decrying an article we were missing, editors from around the world, who share no common language and have likely never interacted with each other, got busy; and they created resources for public access to free knowledge across multiple platforms, in dozens of languages, each of which will last—for all intents and purposes—forever.

We are working hard, and we are good at what we do. If we weren't, they wouldn't be writing about us; they'd be talking about our competitor, except we have no competitor. There is no one who tries so hard to give away free knowledge, and manages to give it away well enough that they're even in same ballpark as us, barely in the same game. For people who can't afford books, don't live near a library, barely have internet access, or have grown up with free knowledge being the standard, we are that standard.

If you're concerned about the gender gap in Wikipedia, you're right to be concerned, but as Fortune put it in the one thing they got unequivocally right, "anyone can write an entry in the gigantic online encyclopedia ... What are you waiting for, get busy."

If you've ever wanted to be a part of something unprecedented, we're doing it right now. Let's get to work.

Riled up: seeking changes to the academic notability guideline to help prevent a repeat incident

The Donna Strickland case has a number of Wikipedians riled up, myself included. First, it would have been much better if we had an article on Strickland before she won the Nobel prize for physics, not after. It should give us pause that an article draft submission stating Strickland's basic biography was declined as late as May 2018 as non-notable. While some male Nobel laureates have lacked an article about them until after their prize announcement, and the statistics for the past decade bears this out (neither gender fares better), there is a significant difference: if you look at the early versions of the male Nobel laureate biographies whose articles existed long before receiving the Nobel, a number of them were in worse shape than the Strickland draft that was declined in May.

Second, the wider issues are certainly worth discussing. Two perspectives on it can be found above and below: one from GreenMeansGo acknowledging the gender gap and, rightly, pointing out that anybody can contribute to fix it; and another, a polemic defense of the status quo by Chris Troutman. For my part, however, I want to focus on one specific issue that is more general than the Wikipedia gender gap. Namely, I think a lesson can be drawn from the Strickland case, and it has to do with how we assess the notability of academics.

The May 2018 Strickland draft submission was declined not because Strickland's career at that point didn't indicate she was notable, but because that notability was not attested in independent sources. Strickland was notable: she had been president of The Optical Society, a major scientific society with more than 20,000 professional members; and had also been a fellow of that society—a selective fellowship that singles out individuals "who have served with distinction in the advancement of optics and photonics". But there had apparently been no, or at least no easily accessible, media coverage of those two facts. If that was indeed so, it would be unsurprising—both facts are not usually considered to be of interest to a more general readership. That is why Bradv declined the draft submission, using a template that describes the submission as not showing "significant coverage (not just passing mentions) about the subject in published, reliable, secondary sources that are independent of the subject".

If we change one aspect of the guidelines for assessing the notability of academics such that it could have helped in this particular case, we can—much more importantly—facilitate future such assessments without compromising our standards.

The editor who rejected the draft, Bradv, has written a thoughtful essay about this that is worth reading; it is also featured as this issue's opinion piece. As Bradv notes therein, the discussion of his decision that followed the Nobel prize announcement included some editors (along with Bradv) who argued that, on general principles such as notability requiring verifiable evidence and the reliability rationale behind requiring independent sources, declining the draft was the correct decision. Others have argued that the no original research policy, in its section on primary sources, permits the use of reputably published primary sources so long as they do not require interpretation or analysis (which would amount to original research).

When it comes to assessing academic notability (according to the specific criteria defined for that purpose), there is a number of similar situations where highly reliable primary sources could be used. If an academic won a major prize, we will find reliable information about that on the website of the prize-awarding institution. They know best who won their prize and they have no incentive to provide false information; likewise for an academic holding a named chair in a department. If anything, the official staff listing for the department website is as reliable as it gets for that particular bit of information! Other similar cases include who was given a specific fellowship and who is editor of a specific academic journal—the sort of bare facts that are already routinely cited in articles. Nonetheless, a number of editors will hesitate to use that information when deciding whether to decline an article draft or when evaluating notability during a deletion discussion, since it is not from an independent secondary source.

What I propose—or, rather, have proposed (permanent link)—is that we insert into the guidelines for the notability of academics explicit language stating that it is sufficient for those specific sources to be used when deciding on whether or not a person fulfills the notability criteria in question. In other words: having been given a prize, having a distinguished chair, being an editor at a major journal, holding an office at a major scientific society, and having been given a prestigious fellowship should all count toward notability, even if sourced to a non-independent reliable primary source.

I emphatically do not propose that we should accept the word of these primary sources on anything beyond the simple yes-or-no information about a named chair, fellowship, and so on. For instance, of course we should not accept an organization's own word on whether one of its prizes is "prestigious" (which is necessary for the prize to lead to academic notability); however, we should be able to take their word for it when it comes to whether or not their prize has been awarded to a specific person. What is the alternative conclusion? That the university or organization is falsely reporting who their own chairs, fellows, and editors are? To what end?

Some commentators have argued that this addition to the guidelines is redundant—that this is already implied in the current language. I think that the editors mentioned in Bradv's essay, who argued that secondary sources are necessary in this specific case, shows clearly that it is not. Will the addition weaken our criteria for notability? I do not see how it might. The specific criteria (prestigious fellowship, named chair, etc.) touched by this will still be exactly the same; we merely will be allowing additional (reliable!) sources for documenting and fulfilling those criteria. But is this just instruction creep—would this amount to specifying something everyone should already know? I think not. Reviewing Articles for Creation is a thankless task as is; for someone not familiar with what is and isn't reliable in the academic world, the proposed additions will make the job easier.

While inspired by the Strickland case, where the proposed criteria would have made it easier to come to a conclusion that would, not least with hindsight, have been the right thing to do, the proposal will probably affect numerous future cases of academic biographies—biographies that might otherwise be kept out of Wikipedia, not because their subjects would not have been notable academics by our criteria but because it would have been hard to show that they were, according to a not uncommon interpretation of our present standards. I think it will be a good outcome of the Strickland discussion if we can ensure, in this way, that more academics who deserve to be included, are included.

So please, head over to the proposal and tell us what you think! Echoing GreenMeansGo, we are working hard and we are good at what we do. At our best, that includes a realization of where we can do better. I think this is such a case. Let us please find a consensus on this.

Donna Strickland wasn't allowed her article and Wikipedians are to blame!

Regarding the much-discussed "missing" Wikipedia biography of physicist Donna Strickland, as has been pointed out elsewhere, the journalists who laid these charges know nothing about Wikipedia (they keep insisting we have moderators) and are not, in fact, interested in Wikipedia so much as they seek to push a narrative about patriarchy for their naïve readership.

Please allow me to correct this mistaken viewpoint evidenced by imprecise newspaper and magazine language. No one "has an article on Wikipedia." Rather, Wikipedia has articles about people (and other subjects). A Washington Post piece laments that "Donna Strickland didn't have a Wikipedia page." The Independent talks about "a Wikipedia page for Strickland." The Guardian implies Strickland deserved "her own page" while The Observer rhetorically asks "What does a female scientist have to do to get her own Wikipedia page?". The Atlantic claimed that "unlike her fellow winners, Strickland did not have a Wikipedia page." The Times of India exclaimed that "Strickland didn't have her own page until after her win." Even the Wikimedia Foundation's Twitter account identified Strickland as a Nobel "laureate who didn't have a @wikipedia article" before her Nobel Prize. And Ed Erhart—who should know better—spoke for the WMF, saying that "[d]espite Strickland's positions and groundbreaking research, she did not have an article about her on the English Wikipedia."

The so-called journalism about this topic often makes this linguistic error, probably because they remain ignorant of ownership. I insist here because correct language leads to correct thought: how Wikipedia decides to write (or not write) an article about associate professor Donna Strickland is a different discussion than why Strickland doesn't get to have an article on Wikipedia. The former premise correctly talks about our institutional inclusion decisions. The latter premise falsely assumes that a woman scientist deserves something that Wikipedia chooses to withhold. Had these so-called news outlets asked the question about why Wikipedia did not prioritize writing about scientists like Strickland, the answer may have been revealed that Wikipedia is not a leading indicator but rather a trailing indicator of notability.

Regardless, some Wikipedians (as well as a few folks at the WMF) fell for that propaganda and are now embarrassed. They express regret that Wikipedia got caught without an article about Strickland prior to the announcement from the Nobel Committee, as if a mistake was made or an injustice was committed. Bradv declined a draft about Strickland months ago at Articles for Creation, and rightly so, but some point to Strickland's fellowship in The Optical Society as proof of the subject is an "elected member of a highly selective and prestigious scholarly society or association" as specified in our notability guidelines for academics; our article about The Optical Society doesn't make clear the group's "highly selective and prestigious" status in the way articles about any of the National Academies might have.

The WMF's Ed Erhart opines that had an expert Wikipedia editor like Quantumavik, a post-doctoral researcher in quantum physics, looked at that draft instead of rank dilettante Bradv, the subjective importance of the society (and by extension, Strickland) would have been recognized. The aforementioned journalists, as well as Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales himself, publicly threw Bradv under the bus rather than defend Bradv's application of notability criteria. He became the scapegoat for Wikipedia's alleged misogynist sins. Honest Wikipedians will admit that Strickland failed the general notability guidelines and "any biography" criteria, and did not clearly satisfy academic notability criteria prior to her Nobel win—and yet, some editors think that what must have been Wikipedia's cruel, premeditated snub of Donna Strickland evinces a problem needing solving.

Spurred by this perceived loss of face, some foolishly call for unneeded inclusionism, perhaps forgetting that we cannot write a decent article without good sources. I doubt we can provide any subject—but especially biographies of living persons—a fair assessment, or the reader a respectable product, if we allow subpar sourcing in pursuit of a silly social justice mandate. Subjects and readers deserve better than a subjective article with slipshod sourcing all to meet a quota. Wikipedia's detractors value quantity over quality, prioritizing their preferred narrative as opposed to responsible authorship. The WMF has stupidly played into this practice, by making the easily quantifiable number of articles in Wikipedia the unit of analysis while forgetting the qualitative results of well-performed article-writing. As an immediatist, thousands of poorly written Stub- and Start-class articles have no value for me, unless all you want is a fig-leaf stub article to hide behind lest some media outlet accuse us.

Rather than push back against thoughtless newspapers and educate the public with this opportunity, the WMF unwisely called upon readers to "do something about it", as if activist editors would help the situation. The WMF, like WikiProject Women in Red, embraces this tribalist right-great-wrongs mentality by pursuing ill-thought slacktivism. While perhaps some of the articles created through populist efforts might meet our notability guidelines, to encourage more bias to counter a perception of systemic bias is reprehensible. Any article we write about a living person has to be based upon multiple, independent, reliable sources. To do otherwise would risk writing either hagiography or libel.

Those of us who are serious about our contributions should resist the shrill voices of ignorant commentators looking for clickbait. An article on Wikipedia is not the final determiner of fact: we do not hand out recognition as if we, alone, decide which subjects are worth attention. I not only caution against leaving the status quo, but also understand that Wikipedians—Bradv first among them—are owed an apology.

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Amazon donates $1,000,000 to the Wikimedia Foundation

Artistic photograph of multiple US$20 bills

The Wikimedia Foundation has acknowledged Amazon's recent donation of one million dollars. Describing the reliance of Alexa on the free content available on Wikipedia: "As recently as six months ago, Wikimedia expressed that they'd like to see more companies who were using Wikipedia to give back", Justin Bariso of Inc. explains.

"Amazon's digital brain, Alexa, uses Wikipedia as one of many sources to answer questions", says Nat Levy on GeekWire. "Amazon has added the ability to donate to Wikipedia through voice commands. After saying the phrase, 'Alexa, donate to Wikipedia', the digital assistant walks through the steps and verifies how much the user would like to give."

Brief notes

The official admin mop logo, depicting a mop overlaying the Wikipedia globe logo
  • New and returning administrators: The Signpost welcomes two new administrators, and returning admins to the English Wikipedia in October.
    • Justlettersandnumbers whose RfA closed at 215/3/9, joined Wikipedia in 2010 and – with over 33,000 edits to the mainspace alone – is a prolific content contributor, also serving as an OTRS agent.
    • Sir Sputnik, whose RfA closed with a round number of supporting votes at 200/6/8, is an SPI Clerk and hails from Germany. He joined the English Wikipedia in 2008 and has made a total of over 121,000 edits.
      Neither of these highly successful bids for adminship were devoid of the infighting between voters, trolling, and sockpuppetry, which have become regular features of the process in recent times. See The Signpost's May 2018, June 2018, and July 2018 op-eds.
    • Liz regains her tools after procedural desysopping following an almost total absence from Wikipedia of over two years.
    • Lourdes now takes on adminship duties after declining their successful promotion (207/3/1) in February this year.
    • Two administrators were desysopped in accordance with the admin inactivity policy.
  • Returning editors:

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Wikipedia "bans" Breitbart

Photograph of Andrew Breitbart shrugging while speaking at an event
Fake news?

Vice, PC Magazine, American Libraries magazine, The David Pakman Show, and others covered the English Wikipedia community's decision not to allow Breitbart News sourcing. On October 3, Breitbart called themselves "blacklisted" but of course we can't link the article for The Signpost because... well, the site is on the blacklist. — B

Wikipedia's celebrity

Steven Pruitt (Ser Amantio di Nicolao) is currently Wikipedia's top editor, with over 2.7 million edits. He has fairly consistently attracted media coverage, including being named one of the top 25 most influential people on the internet in 2017, by Time. Pruitt was recently flung into the limelight yet again, with a series of prominent newspapers reprinting a piece originating with The Washington Post. — E

Jimbo Wales lays off his journalists

John Enoch, reporting for The Times (paywall) tells of Jimbo Wales firing the reporters of his WikiTribune, the place for "news by the people and for the people", after only one year of publication.

Nine million broken links, fixed

Official logo and wordmark of the Internet Archive

An article in TechCrunch reports on the collaboration of volunteers from the Internet Archive succeeding in repairing 9 million broken links. Maximilian Doerr and Stephen Balbach created software tools, including IAbot, to automate correction of 6 million links. Other Wikipedia volunteers fixed 3 million more by manually linking to Internet Archive.

In brief

Screenshot of the main page with red graffiti reading "wiki vANdAL" superimposed over it along with a red spraypaint canister in the bottom-right
Clip art icon of a clapperboard with a vampire smiley on it
Don't watch this – read about it!

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.

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Mediation Committee shutdown proposed

Logo of the Mediation Committee, depicting the Wikipedia globe logo within a laurel
No more mediators?

Wikipedia's Mediation Committee (MedCom) has heard five cases in the last three years (see Wikipedia:Requests for mediation/Tasks), leading some users to question its usefulness. Eliminating the function has thus been proposed in a Request for Comment (RfC) at "Village pump (proposals) § Close MedCom?" (permanent link). Reasons cited by the proposer include:

  • very few cases are submitted, let alone successful;
  • the requirement that the parties go through other methods of dispute resolution first, i.e. mediation is intended to be the last resort for content disputes;
  • the voluntary nature of mediation (all parties have to agree to it and decisions are non-binding) further reduces its effectiveness;
  • MedCom's sole purpose, content dispute resolution, has been supplanted by other processes; and,
  • basically one user (the chairperson) is actively working on the committee.

Supporters of closing MedCom have said that it is largely inactive, ineffective, and inefficient, as well as overly bureaucratic. On the other hand, one of the opposers, TransporterMan (who chairs the committee), argues that MedCom still plays in important part, though less frequently today than in years past, because it is better equipped to deal with complex cases that take a long time. This argument has been cited by other opposers of the proposal. As of publication, there are currently about 33 votes in favor and 11 against with a few neutrals. — P

Proposed deletion of proposed deletions (PROD)

Reforms to proposed deletion (PROD), one of which is the elimination of the process, have been proposed in a five-part RfC on the Village Pump (policy) at "RfC: Proposed deletion policy" (permanent link). Two parts have been closed already while the rest is now overdue for closure. — B, K

In brief

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Rogue Killers (October 14 to 20)

Horizontal bar graph depicting the most popular Wikipedia articles for the week of October 14 to 20, 2018

Another week, another series of deaths. The report is topped by two deceased men: a slaughtered opponent of the Saudi regime and a technological tycoon. Following on from this sombre note, however, we have a list dominated to an intense degree by visual media, from new Netflix releases to a virtual tour of all big releases currently airing in your local multiplex. Not the most diverse report of all time, dominated as it is by just a handful of issues, but interesting to compile all the same. Enjoy.

For the week of October 14 to 20, 2018, the 25 most popular articles on Wikipedia, as determined from the WP:5000 report were:

Rank Article Class Views Image About
1 Jamal Khashoggi B-Class article 1,364,473 Jamal Khashoggi in March 2018 (cropped).jpg The brutal story which captivated the world this week revolves around Khashoggi, a journalist, famed in the West for his work with The Post, disappeared in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, leading to (now confirmed) suspicions that he had been murdered by the Arabian authorities. Of course, Saudi Arabia was ostracized internationally owing to their blatant brutality—just kidding, they have liquid gold. Must have been rogue killers. Maybe #18 was involved.
2 Paul Allen B-Class article 1,141,490 Paul G. Allen.jpg Another death, though one with less geopolitical ramifications; Allen, along with his bespectacled friend, founded Microsoft and subsequently became one of the wealthiest men alive (and owner of the Seahawks). Sad day for fans of technology. Even sadder for Internet Explorer users, who are just finding out about his demise now.
3 The Haunting of Hill House (TV series) Start-Class article 1,082,865 Michielhuisman2015.jpg The latest streaming sensation on our all-powerful content tsar charts highly on the Top 25 Report, following in the well-trodden footsteps of seemingly every series in the platform. I haven't seen this one, but it is tinged with horror; based on #5; and stars Michiel Huisman, perhaps best known as a regenerated dragon's paramour.
4 A Star Is Born (2018 film) B-Class article 972,305 Guitard Epiphone 03.jpg The fourth iteration of the cinematic classic, starring an acting musician and a directing actor, is also the best, and will aim to convert the considerable swathes of wiki-interest it has attracted into gold, the work of a cinephilic alchemist.
5 The Haunting of Hill House Start-Class article 907,143 Stepney Dam II.jpg Shirley Jackson's 1959 novel, a seminal cornerstone of mid-twentieth-century horror literature alongside the corpus of literary royalty, has been adapted into a popular Netflix miniseries (#3).
6 Halloween (2018 film) Start-Class article 791,624 Pumpkipedia-47.jpg When one sees the repetitive rebooting of dormant horror franchises, all dull, stale, monotonous and trite, I wonder why Hollywood bothers. Then Halloween slashes its way to a $77 million opening weekend, and one wonders no more.
7 Venom (2018 film) C-Class article 747,146 Special Edition NYC 2014 - Venom (14408126726).jpg Venom is comfortably one of the worst superhero adaptations in recent memory, with bland characters, a comically laughable plot, non-existent tension, and an intriguing ability to be both ludicrously toned-down and simultaneously grossly over the top. So kudos to Sony Pictures for out-doing their last horrendous swing at the character, and kudos to the droves of cinema-goers who ensured that poor Tom Hardy will have to slog through several sequels.
8 Deaths in 2018 List-Class article 694,717 Skullclose.jpg Another week, another appearance in the Top 25 for the list of the deceased, buoyed this time by our top two entries.
9 Lady Gaga Featured article 577,955 TIFF 2018 Lady Gaga (1 of 1)-3 (cropped) (edited).jpg Lady Gaga has become intimately reacquainted with the Fame Monster and its associated harbingers following her sublime starring turn in #4, and it is likely she will be in the Oscar conversation come awards time. Not bad for the musician, who intriguingly derived her stage name from our #13.
10 Neil Armstrong Featured article 507,392 Neil Armstrong pose.jpg The first is a handful of real-life figures in the Report owing to their appearances in cinematic biopics, the Air Force pilot turned pioneering lunar Voyager is the subject of the fittingly named First Man, where he is portrayed sublimely by Ryan Gosling.

UFC, Politics, and More Superheroes (October 7 to 13)

Horizontal bar graph depicting the most popular Wikipedia articles for the week of October 7 to 13, 2018

This week, readers continued to be interested in the event that turned violent... err... more violent (#1, #3, #5, #15, #19). Further down the list is a different kind of fight—this one over the US Supreme Court (#7, #23, #25). Wikipedia readers also went to the movies a lot this week, with entries related to new releases Venom, A Star Is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody, and 22 July from Netflix (#2, #4, #12, #13, #14, #20, #22). Rounding out the list is the latest Trump administration departure (#6), a royal wedding (#8), another Banksy prank (#9), American athletes (#11, #17), Hurricane Michael (#16), and #MeToo (#21). This leaves 3 spots this week related to deaths (#10, #24, and #18, unless you're the Saudi government).

For the week of October 6 to 13, 2018, the 25 most popular articles on Wikipedia, as determined from the WP:5000 report were:

Rank Article Class Views Image About
1 Khabib Nurmagomedov C-Class article 3,083,061 Khabib Nurmagomedov 2.png Nurmagomedov beat Conor McGregor in UFC 229 to become the new UFC lightweight champion. UFC is a mixed martial arts competition, which basically means that you're trying to beat up your opponent by any means possible. Oh, and then this guy did this. No thanks.
2 Venom (2018 film) C-Class article 1,521,579 Venom Cosplay.jpg There's been a lot of buzz around this film, which—despite being critically panned—has proven to be a hit with audiences. It grossed $35 million in the US and Canada last weekend, giving it the number 1 spot once again and a total domestic haul of $142 million. It just goes to show that moviegoers really, really, really like superheroes. The film, directed by Ruben Fleischer, tells the story of Spider-Man antihero named Venom, played by Tom Hardy (whose acting is considered one of the highlights of the film). The film was made by Sony Pictures and, despite it being about a Marvel character, Marvel does not consider it to be in the official Marvel Cinematic Universe.
3 Conor McGregor C-Class article 1,341,613 Conor McGregor 2016.png After a brief stint in boxing, this was supposed to be McGregor's return to mixed martial arts, the combat sport which brought him his fame. And just like the fight linked above (which ended in a technical knockout), it probably didn't end the way McGregor hoped. Of course, he probably made a lot of money along the way, so that helps. Can't say I watched, but there you go.
4 A Star Is Born (2018 film) C-Class article 1,326,315 TIFF 2018 Lady Gaga (1 of 1) (cropped).jpg #2 for this weekend's US/Canada box office is the fourth remake, considered to be a favorite for awards season. With Hollywood's obsession with remakes and sequels, it's surprising it took this long for a remake to come out.
5 UFC 229 C-Class article 1,056,495 T Mobile Arena The Strip Las Vegas (29798246202).jpg Pictured to the left is the Las Vegas arena where the fight took place (see #1).
6 Nikki Haley C-Class article 902,500 Nikki Haley official photo.jpg This week, Haley became the latest high-profile departure from the Trump White House, which has had an astonishingly high turnover rate. Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, will leave at the end of the year. Comments by the POTUS suggest that Jim Mattis and Jeff Sessions may be on the outs as well. Sad!
7 Brett Kavanaugh C-Class article 831,313 Brett Kavanaugh 2018.jpg Ugh. Don't remind me that this guy is on the Supreme Court. What a sad, sad day for America. Please, never mention this name to me ever again, unless it's part of an impeachment effort.
8 Princess Eugenie C-Class article 811,346[a] Princess Eugenie, 2017.jpg There was another royal wedding last week. With this one happening so close to the last one, the page views were lower; it probably didn't help that Markle and Prince Harry sort of stole their thunder with an announcement of their own.[b]
9 Banksy C-Class article 727,223 BANKSY LONDON.jpg Banksy made headlines again this week, when a copy of his painting Girl with Balloon shredded itself after being sold at auction for £1,042,000 (US$1.373 million). (Or did it?) Of course, this just increased its value. The painting has now been renamed Love Is in the Bin.
10 Deaths in 2018 List-Class article 703,425 Grim reaper (5110643225).jpg "All our times have come
Here, but now they're gone
I gotta have more cowbell!
  1. ^ Combined views; during the week, the article was moved from "Princess Eugenie of York" (583,283) to "Princess Eugenie" (228,063).
  2. ^ What, you think I'm going to read articles about this topic?

October and articles are stripped bare (September 30 to October 6, 2018)

Horizontal bar graph depicting the most popular Wikipedia articles for the week of September 30 to October 6, 2018

October starts with the most prevalent subject being the United States Supreme Court dispute (#2, #8, #13, #19, #20, #21) that dominated late September—a current Justice (#17) thankfully owes her entry for matters outside that. And if you though that wasn't aggressive enough, there was a MMA event (#25) that ended with the fighters (#5, #11) attacking/being attacked by people outside the ring, something you'd expect more from wrestling (#7). While on bad boys, the Report is topped by the solo movie of comics antihero Eddie Brock a.k.a. Venom—and yet, the new release that brought in bonus entries was A Star Is Born (#3), with both stars (#10, #12), one of whom also directs, entering the list. India looked for Gandhi in his holiday (#6), a doctor when Google homaged him (#14) and an actor when his widow died (#22). Otherwise, Charles Aznavour (#16) joined the year's deaths (#4), Patrick Mahomes (#9) keeps winning, Banksy (#24) trolled an auction, Elon Musk (#18) continues to see negative repercussions of the joint he smoked, and readers sought more about a Netflix movie on wolf hunters (#23) and Forest Whitaker's brother (#15).

For the week of September 30 to October 6, 2018, the 25 most popular articles on Wikipedia, as determined from the WP:5000 report were:

Rank Article Class Views Image About
1 Venom (2018 film) C-Class article 1,721,610 Venom Cosplay.jpg Spider-Man's sometimes evil, sometimes antiheroic counterpart got his solo movie, though completely divorced from said hero as Sony Pictures still wants to make Webhead-related movies without needing to ask for Marvel Studios to help. Critics blasted Venom, though deeming it a bit watchable due to Tom Hardy's unhinged performance as Eddie Brock (and his superpowered dark side); audiences were more acceptive, and the movie made $200 million worldwide in a single weekend.
2 Brett Kavanaugh C-Class article 1,456,383 Brett Kavanaugh 2018.jpg In spite of the hearings regarding a sexual assault incident (#8), the Senate confirmed Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court by just two votes.
3 A Star Is Born (2018 film) C-Class article 1,088,531 Star Is Born 02 (31066433638).jpg The other big release of the week, the fourth remake of a famous story of musicians falling in love and she rises to fame while he decays,[a] starring Bradley Cooper (pictured), who also directs, produces, and co-writes. It finished as second in the box office behind our #1, but got much better reviews, being lauded as a possible award contender.
4 Deaths in 2018 List-Class article 714,104 Grim reaper (5110643225).jpg "À Tout le Monde, à tous mes amis
Je vous aime, je dois partir

These are the last words I'll ever speak
And they'll set me free"
5 Khabib Nurmagomedov C-Class article 677,003 Khabib Nurmagomedov 2.png The Russian UFC Lightweight Champion saw his title contested by former champion Conor McGregor (#11) in Las Vegas (#25), and still won—but followed it by some violence off the octagon that made Dana White refuse to give him the belt back, fearing the crowd would pelt him with whatever they had on hand.
6 Mahatma Gandhi Good article 659,348 Mahatma Gandhi statue in Kollam.jpg Mohandas's birthday was on October 2, leading Indians to once again research the activist who inspired the Gandhi Jayanti holiday.
7 WWE Super Show-Down C-Class article 625,858 Charlotte as the WWE Women's Champion Raw April 2016.jpg One more WWE pantomime, only this time in Australia! Among the events of the night, Charlotte Flair (pictured) won the WWE SmackDown Women's Championship.
8 Christine Blasey Ford C-Class article 625,685 Dr Christine Blasey Ford during exchange with US Senator Dick Durbin 04 (cropped namecard).png The testimony of this college professor accusing Brett Kavanaugh (#2) of sexually assaulting her back in high school inspired an FBI supplemental background investigation... without the statements by herself, Kavanaugh, and dozens of other witnesses due to restrictions imposed by the White House. Go figure. Ford still doesn't want him impeached, hoping the mid-term elections elects mostly Democrats.
9 Patrick Mahomes Start-Class article 541,537 Patrick Mahomes military appreciation2018 (cropped).jpg The 2018 Kansas City Chiefs season so far has been a 5‒0, so the quarterback responsible is at the center of attention.
10 Lady Gaga Featured article 493,663 Lady Gaga A-Yo JWT, 2018-01-31 (cropped).jpg Stefani Germanotta followed the steps of Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand by getting the lead role in A Star is Born (#3), with acclaim that must have satisfied a woman who once sung "I live for the applause".
  1. ^ though the first is about actors—sounds familiar?

Supreme Allegations (September 23 to 29)

Horizontal bar graph depicting the most popular Wikipedia articles for the week of September 23 to 29, 2018

More so than any report in recent memory, this iteration of the Top 25 Report is dominated by one major story: the ongoing confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh for the vacant seat on the US Supreme Court, and the allegations of sexual misconduct levied against him. The story accounts directly for some eight of the items listed below, the majority of which reside in the top half. With view counts of just over 300,000 sufficient for a place in the report, there is no denying that it was a quiet week for Wikipedians. However, the perusers of the encyclopedia ensured that the report has some diversity, with entries originating from the silver screen, the back pages of the newspapers, and even Reddit. Thus, an undeniably unusual report, dogged by sexual assault and the cryptic complexity of American politics; yet nonetheless, a curious list, and one that we hope you enjoy.

Without further ado, for the week of September 23 to 29, 2018 the 25 most popular articles on Wikipedia, as determined from the WP:5000 report were:

Rank Article Class Views Image About
1 Brett Kavanaugh C-Class article 2,451,649 Brett Kavanaugh 2018.jpg History has a tendency to repeat itself, it seems. In 1991, a Republican nominee for SCOTUS was embroiled in controversy during their confirmation hearing as a result of allegations of sexual harassment made by our #7, leading to furore and debate galore amongst the public and a chasm-like schism between members of Congress on the issue. Once again, this week, Capitol Hill has consumed itself with such matters, as Kavanaugh, Trump's nominee for the vacant seat on the court, has been accused of sexual assault by Ford, and this has inadvertently created a political firestorm, with raging rhetoric between those who believe the allegations and those who accuse them of being a political stunt aimed to stall the nomination until mid-terms. Evidently, this has captivated Wikipedians worldwide.
2 Christine Blasey Ford C-Class article 1,613,591 Dr Christine Blasey Ford during exchange with US Senator Dick Durbin 04 (cropped namecard).png
3 Bill Cosby C-Class article 836,293 2006 Bill Cosby.jpg Completing a trio of sexual assault related stories in the Top 3 for this week, we have the sweater-wearing celebrity behind The Cosby Show, who has seen his star fall dramatically amidst a conviction for rape. Cosby, once dubbed "America's Dad" at the height of his popularity, was sentenced to a jail sentence of between 3 to 10 years during the week, leading vast swathes of Wikipedians towards his article.
4 Deaths in 2018 List-Class article 719,113 Grim reaper (5110643225).jpg Once again, the list of the fallen attracted swarms of Wikipedia's denizens, morbid curiosity and intrigue propelling them to the list like a moth to a flame (bröther). Interestingly, the list remains so high despite the fact that none of the victims of the Reaper feature in this iteration of the report.
5 Lindsey Graham C-Class article 616,461 Msc2012 20120205 023 Lesley Graham during the panel Frank Plitt.jpg Lindsey Graham has taken a starring role in the investigation and confirmation hearings of #1, representing the GOP by supporting Kavanaugh in spite of the allegations. This has led media outlets to declare him to be Trump's greatest ally in the Senate. Graham seems determined to enact the President's will to select a nominee for the Supreme Court, as detailed in the Constitution. Luckily, Graham has always upheld the importance of this executive right.
6 Tha Carter V Start-Class article 601,874 Lil Wayne (23513397583).jpg The long-delayed and possibly last album by rapper Lil Wayne (#8) got finally released on September 28.
7 Anita Hill C-Class article 575,395 Anita Hill at Harvard Law School Sep 2014.jpg Anita Hill was a major source of controversy in American politics of the early 1990s, shaking Capitol Hill in a manner which only Monica Lewinski would replicate throughout the decade. Hill alleged that she had been the victim of sexual harassment perpetrated by Clarence Thomas (#12) during his confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court. The controversy swirling around #1 and #2 has obviously brought Wikipedia's attention back to this starkly similar case. History has a tendency to repeat itself, it seems.
8 Lil Wayne B-Class article 570,512 Gila Monster head.jpg Dwayne Carter, self-proclaimed "Best Rapper Alive" who isn't one of the Reptilians but certainly looks like a giant gila monster, released Tha Carter V (#6) after six years of work.
9 Tiger Woods Good article 560,038 Tiger Woods 2018.jpg The most famous name in world golf, and the second most decorated player ever, both in terms of PGA Tour wins and majors, Tiger Woods has exploded back into the spotlight this season, rediscovering form after—to the world—it seemed he was finished. Tiger confirmed his return as one of the sport's apex predators with a comfortable victory at the season-ending Tour Championship, and subsequently celebrated by losing four games for the US team at #16. Next month, he will face Phil Mickelson in a winner-takes-all match in Vegas. If Phil's game is as desolate as his dancing (thank me later), then Tiger will likely reign supreme.
10 Asia Cup Start-Class article 485,664 Cricket ball on grass.jpg
The Indian sub-continent has an affinity (to put it mildly) for cricket. Throughout the past fortnight, fans of the sport were treated to a veritable festival of the game, played using its more approachable ODI system, as the best nations of Asia competed fiercely with each other. This tournament, played in the UAE culminated with a closely contested clash between reigning champions India and their Bengali neighbours, with India triumphing by three wickets to retain their throne.


  • 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.

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Kudpung joined Wikipedia in 2006. His focus is on policy changes concerning deletions/notability, and the improvement of the new page patrolling and AfC processes. He was de facto coordinator for NPP for many years before retiring from it in March 2017. He was acting Editor-in-Chief of The Signpost for several months this year. The views expressed in this article are his alone and do not reflect any official opinions of this publication.

Just what is NPP/NPR? Why does it need YOU?

Animated depiction of a red-and-white Christmas stocking
Fill me?

How many of our readers actually know what goes on behind the scenes? Thousands of content contributors and maintenance workers go about their tasks without ever being involved in contentious issues and noticeboards, and may only be fleetingly aware of what a huge mechanism is required to keep Wikipedia clean and sailing on calm waters. New Page Patrol and New Page Review are probably an enigma to many, and those who know most about it are its operators and the creators of new pages whose submissions of new articles have been subject to the process. It's a complex operation that relies on complex and sophisticated software – and a lot of skill. It needs more reviewers, but above all, improved tools for them to use which only the Wikimedia Foundation can develop.

New Page Patrol, with its associated Page Curation tools and feed, is the only firewall that exists to protect our encyclopedia from becoming a platform for spam, paid editing, attack pages, and gratuitous graffiti. It's arguably the most important backroom function of all – even before the work of admins who are responsible for the physical deletion of unwanted pages and maintaining some form of harmony among the deck hands and landlubbers. But let's be clear about the meaning of a firewall: in today's computer and Internet parlance the term is generally related to some security algorithms conjured up by highly skilled software engineers; but NPP is a 100% human task, one that requires other skills, such as recognizing and mentally analyzing the articles in the daily tidal wave of new content that arrives as a result of our very open policy towards editing the encyclopedia.

New Page Review wasn't invented yesterday

NPP has a long history. It was probably first created, or at least the original Special:NewPages, as part of the MediaWiki software at the very beginning when it was realised that some form of system would need to be instigated not only to prevent the incursion of totally unsuitable material into the encyclopedia corpus, but also to accept new articles that meet our basic criteria.

The first iteration of a guide for patrolling new pages was created March 2004 by Sethant, admin since 2004 but pretty much retired now for the last eight years. It was a far cry from the detailed set of instructions the reviewers are expected to be familiar with today, but it was start.

By 2007, the first rumblings of a need to formalize the process began, and it soon became apparent that the quality of reviewing was uncontrolled, unsupervised, and very often a hit and miss affair, frequently exploited by spammers and their socks; and that the backlog was growing wildly out of control (20,000–30,000 pages), not to mention that unpatrolled pages just slipped neatly into the corpus after just 30 days. Like many maintenance areas that are a magnet for enthusiastic new users, much of the patrolling was carried out by inexperienced editors – and even today, some of the tasks, such as maintenance and deletion tagging, are still open to all comers. The number of bots for NPP had gone from 0 to 16, somewhat reducing he workload of the 50 or so experienced users who were patrolling new pages, but still not able to stem the tide and prevent a large number of articles from lurking in the deep waters after 30 days. The process became a serious challenge to those who were striving to do it properly.

What became to be known as ACTRIAL (The Signpost, Special report, March 2018) was in fact first proposed by Beeblebrox in in 2009, but the discussion petered out without any consensus being reached.

By March 2011 the situation had become critical and The Blade of the Northern Lights raised the issue again at the Village Pump in a section titled "We need more New Page Patrollers – requiring autoconfirmation to create articles", seeding the idea of the actual trial, that took place seven years later after initial and prolonged resistance from the WMF to implement the change.

Video tutorial for Page Curation

In June 2011, Aaron Halfaker of the WMF initiated a research program, which largely confirmed the importance of the process and the issues he had clearly identified:

The research concluded with "...this analysis refute[s] the hypothesis that page patrollers' work is increasing."

In the aftermath of the Foundation's blunt rejection of the consensus for ACTRIAL, as a consolation prize they developed the Page Curation system and its feed in close collaboration with the community. They also produced excellent documentation and a very well made and compelling video tutorial.

Graph depicting the backlog of unreviewed new pages between 2016 and 2017: rapid increase in the second half of 2016, flattening until February 2018, decrease during February, and then resumption of a steeper incline until mid-May 2018
Backlog of unreviewed new pages
between 2016 and 2017


In early 2017 the backlog had again reached crisis proportions with a backlog in the tens of thousands. Reviewers finally decided that they had the technical means to implement ACTRIAL locally and announced they would go ahead, whereupon the WMF finally relented and even provided in-depth research and support. The 6-month trial was carried out, and refuting their initial claims and concerns, the results of the Foundation's post-trial analysis conceded that there had been no detrimental effect to editor retention, nor had any significant loss of potential appropriate new articles been recorded. The trial was ratified by a further RfC (The Signpost, Special report April 2018), and the restriction on article creation in mainspace by new users was made permanent.

Who are New Page Reviewers?

The questions that arose therefore were: Who is sufficiently qualified to accept articles or label them for extinction; and how can the patrollers, or nowadays more aptly called reviewers, go about this task which all agree is onerous and often depressing? As a consequence, a new user group, New Page Reviewers, for qualified reviewers, was created in October 2016.

There are currently 714 New Page Reviewers, which makes the total number of users with this permission 1,865 (the rest are administrators).

It needs a near-admin level of understanding of our hugely complex system of policies and guidelines for notability, conflict of interest, copyright violation, and just simply What Wikipedia is not. After adminship, New Page Reviewer is possibly the most important of all the special user rights.

As hinted on by WMF executive director Katherine Maher (The Signpost, Special report, June 2018), one of the problems of NPP was that the system was accessible to all registered users regardless of whether they were qualified to assess and accept or reject new content. The present situation is that while anyone can still tag pages for maintenance or deletion by using Twinkle, overall control over accepting new pages is the realm of the authorized reviewers who are able to mark pages as 'patrolled'. Although this ensures that new articles are given an equitable assessment, it cannot prevent new users from being bitten by rough handling by less experienced editors who do not have the New Page Reviewer flag on their accounts.

New Page Review needs YOU

...and for more reasons than one!

Photograph of a brown English Cocker Spaniel sitting and wearing a red-and-white Santa cap in a snow-themed set
The Community Tech mascot:
a dog wearing a Santa hat.
  1. Development: According to their page, Community Tech states: "It's important to us... To work on projects that have a big impact". The NPR community has been asking the Wikimedia Foundation for nearly three years for essential updates and maintenance to the suite of Page Curation tools that were developed back in 2011. However, while this is a vital core process, Community Tech—a Foundation department and for additional confusion, also at MediaWiki's Community Tech, a slightly different page which additionally lists a team—insists that such development work will only be accepted following a successful annual poll, or "Wishlist" as they call it, for the most wanted comfort and convenience gadgets. Some of these developments have proven to be of minor benefit to editors and readers, but the broader community outside the reviewers is not certain to show much interest in NPP, a niche, but important Wikipedia function.

    "It is near impossible to get any useful software development out of the WMF in any reasonable amount of time."

    — MER-C

    Voting takes place 16 to 30 November at the "Wishlist" and the NPP community is hoping for a good turnout in support of the requests to Santa for the tools they need. They are counting on significant support not only from their own ranks, but from everyone who is concerned with maintaining a Wikipedia that is free of flotsam, tom-foolery, flagrant financial exploitation, and other pollution. Read what the people in the pointed red hats at San Francisco's North Pole have in store for the community's stocking fillers at Community Wishlist Survey 2019 – noting that there is not an available category for requests for work on core software extensions.

  2. Backlog: Since its inception, around 650 users have been granted the New Page Reviewer right. Many editors think perhaps, "Oh, I don't need that user right, there are plenty of reviewers already", but in reality, 90% of the reviewing is done by a small, regular corps of less than 10% of that number. Many of the reviewers were doing this work already before the user right was created and among them are some of Wikipedia's most experienced editors. Additional experienced users are needed to apply for the right and help out. It may seem harmless compared with the horrendous 2016–17 graph above, but while it has been proven this year that the backlog can be reduced almost to a day's intake, anything much over 1,500 is not sustainable. The chart displayed below updates in real time – check again tomorrow for an update.

Further reading

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Charles Matthews began regular Wikipedia editing in 2003. He is currently Wikimedian in Residence at ContentMine, in Cambridge, working on the ScienceSource project. He has created over 12,000 articles on the English Wikipedia where he has made over 300,000 edits from a global count of almost one million edits to Wikimedia projects.

Photograph of Magnus Manske in October 2015, accompanied by two women, holding up a large framed award
When Wikidata was three: Magnus Manske (centre) with an award for Wikidata

Wikidata's sixth birthday falls on 29 October, and will be celebrated by 34 Wikimedia events worldwide. Last year, indeed, there was WikiDataCon in Berlin. This time around, the cakes will be distributed far and wide.

Some people, I suppose, will still not buy into the acclaim. Here's a personal story.

I get started on Wikidata

My earliest Wikidata edits had slipped my mind. It turns out that what I added initially was the first actual statement to the item on Winston Churchill. When that item had only sitelinks to Wikipedias, I linked it also to Churchill's father Randolph, in February 2013. It was a few days after I had set up a Cambridge meetup, which was probably the reason why I thought I should take a look.

The mix'n'match tool, one of Wikidata's huge successes, was written by Magnus Manske in 2013, though in nothing like today's form. After I made a feature request for a Wikisource tool at a meetup, he replied "I have a better idea", which is now undeniable. In any case, the initial datasets on the tool were catalog 1, from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB); and catalog 2, now the Art UK person ID, that started off under the older name "BBC Your Paintings".

It was not, however, until after Wikimania 2014 in London that I was really drawn into Wikidata editing. That was by a problem to solve, namely how many ODNB biographies were of BBC Your Paintings artists. These days I take it for granted that I can write an easy SPARQL query and bring up an answer: as of this writing, Wikidata knows about 2088 of these matches. At the time, the two British cultural institutions were interested in this question, and were going at it by traditional methods. I also had at the back of my mind another problem: how many ODNB women were missing from the English Wikipedia? Carbon Caryatid had asked me that.

So, as Wikidata turned two, I started to put time into the particular biographical area that was being opened up. By 2018 standards this was still pioneer stuff. There was no SPARQL yet, though there was Magnus's substitute Wikidata Query Service (WDQ). Not only that, but matching implies you can solve the disambiguation question for people, and in the worst cases that can be really hard. When a common name, say "William Smith", came up, you were faced with a list that could run to several pages of hits on the exact name. Typically most of those items were undescribed, and very sparse when it came to biographical facts.

Becoming serious

Portrait photograph of Andrew Gray in 2014
Andrew Gray in 2014

As an extension of what I had been doing on Wikisource with the first edition and English Wikipedia, matching the ODNB on Wikidata was a natural project. Andrew Gray did early spadework there, with Magnus providing the tech support, and we three began a long series of emails, wondering about getting other biographical datasets into mix'n'match. Andrew's pair of Wikidata blogposts from 2014 give the flavour.

Much heavy lifting was going on in early 2015: at that time the mix'n'match tool in gamified mode was my common approach: improved automatching has taken some of the fun, and most of the low-hanging fruit, from that mode of using it. Importantly, as the Wikidata community relaxed its view on notability, non-matched catalog entries were no longer just parked for later consideration: either they were created as items at once, or they were marked "N/A" and left on the back-burner.

So arose the project of creating items for all ODNB entries. In other words, all ODNB topics, around 60,000 of them, which include academic arcana such as "Women in trade and industry in York (act. c. 1300 – c. 1500)" and its 14 examples, would be considered Wikidata-notable. This liberal interpretation of notability that came on stream in 2015 had some odd effects, when minor figures from other catalogs got items, but now that Wikidata is at the scale of 50 million items one hardly sees it as causing genuine problems. Typical databases in the cultural sector, for example the British Museum's, contain many sparse entries. And (worse) often entries that one cannot match because there is no adequate identification provided. Wikidatans do delete such things.

In mid-2015, I pushed through the final stages of ODNB matching into Wikidata and, with Magnus, I helped select which further Wikidata items for Art UK artists should be created. The very interesting BBC television series Britain's Lost Masterpieces makes Art UK's work vividly accessible, as the presenter Bendor Grosvenor pokes around in gallery storage looking for "old masters". Wikidata allows easier access to minor artists, with less dust and cobwebs, since over 22,000 Art UK artists, some 60% of the total, are represented. These can often be identified and merged with other items, though the scholarly challenges in a Wikidata merge can be quite serious (and instructive) just because the notability standards are quite relaxed. Consequently, I have been in a number of meetings with Art UK, explaining Wikidata.

To answer the "missing women from ODNB" question, there was the matter of filling in the "sex or gender" field, and then writing some standard SPARQL. I could see that the answer was about 2,000. The advance from the number to an actual redlink list, created by the ListeriaBot, was still major.

More discovery

Chart of pages on the English Wikisource as of 30 April 2013 depicting two lines being graphed: one of the "naked" pages not backed by scans, while blue shows pages backed by scans
English Wikisource, growth of proof-reading directly against scans in the early 2010s

I came to the ODNB through the Dictionary of National Biography (DNB), specifically the Victorian version edited initially by Leslie Stephen, and I found the DNB on Wikisource. Back in 2010, I gave a talk based on about a year proof-reading the DNB at the Annual General Meeting of Wikimedia UK. There was and still is a discoverability issue with Wikisource, where the French version alone has a million texts. How does one locate texts on a given topic? The category system is not really designed for that, and in any case is used inconsistently by the various languages.

It turned out in 2015 that Wikidata potentially could solve this problem. Any Wikisource text, however short, warrants its own Wikidata item about the text itself. That item can have a "main subject" statement highlighting the topic. Run queries on such statements and you have a language-independent mechanism for finding material you want on Wikisource. Bots started posting Wikidata items for all the articles in big works such as the DNB (around 30,000 of them), and in doing so created outline entries for them in Wikidata.

I took up this direction in 2016, completing the identification of main subjects for the 30,000 metadata items of the DNB. I remember it being incredibly hard graft, even though the previous round of ODNB work meant that all the subjects of the biographies were already there. A proper matching process got into side issues and required, for good conscience, large amounts of cleanup with plenty of merging of duplicates. Fortunately, merging is easier on Wikidata than on Wikipedia.

In 2017, I was rewarded for investing so much of my time: once I had made a key advance in my SPARQL understanding, I was able to write queries to remove the need for patrolling I did on Wikisource to see which Wikipedia articles covered the DNB topics. In a neat plot twist, it was a tool for this kind of patrolling that comes into my anecdote about the origin of mix'n'match above. I learned the facet of SPARQL I needed from Jheald. With the help of a Petscan query, I can do my patrolling without much effort, and so thank those here who create articles on DNB topics. The articles show up once they have a Wikidata item (caveat here about some needed merging), which frees my time to be better spent working on the backlog of articles that don't.

SPARQL users, I should say parenthetically, form a good and collaborative community in my experience. I use the amazing full text search in mix'n'match most days for biographical research—and it too has functioning communities, the matchers and the uploaders of datasets. The more recent TopicMatcher tool supports main subject work (including "depicts" for pictures), and therefore has the potential to take some of the grind out of the discovery trail. Specialised software is a large factor in the development of Wikidata, not just bots, though they still play a massive role as well.

Official logo for the ContentMine ScienceSource

WikiFactMine and ScienceSource

In April 2017, I started work at ContentMine, an unconventional Cambridge tech startup, as Wikimedian in Residence for the WikiFactMine project supported by the Foundation. There I had T Arrow as a colleague. Over five months, the first half of it based at the Betty and Gordon Moore Library where I held training sessions and blogged, I saw the WikiCite initiative to get control of science bibliography take off as Tom Arrow's fatameh tool was exploited to the full by bot operators on Wikidata. Tom now works as a Wikidata contractor.

Photograph of Tom Arrow standing and speaking at Wikimania 2017
T Arrow at Wikimania 2017

Wikidata's store of items about individual scientific papers shot up, from about half a million, and reached 5 million by August that year. It now tops 18 million, with over 150 million citation statements. In October 2017, I went to WikiDataCon in Berlin, my first Wikimedia scholarship.

There was a further Wikimedia grant to ContentMine for the ScienceSource project that started in June this year, centred on the Wikibase site at the ScienceSource Wiki. Wikibase is to Wikidata as MediaWiki is to Wikipedia: it means essentially the same software as Wikidata, if without some features, but set up as an independent site and community. There is a Wikimedia UK blogpost title "Science Source seeks to improve reliable referencing on Wikipedia's medical articles" which is about ScienceSource, along with a set of basic introductory videos.

Photograph of the Betty and Gordon Moore Library
The Betty and Gordon Moore Library, on the West Cambridge mathematics campus

The underlying idea of ScienceSource is to be more systematic about searching the biomedical literature for medical facts that can be passed with good references to Wikidata. It applies text mining, as did WikiFactMine before it, but aims to bring it closer into the Wikimedia fold by posting the results to its Wikibase site, where SPARQL can be run over them. It will engage with WP:MEDRS, the major reliable sources guideline that applies to Wikipedia's health information, again by use of SPARQL applied to metadata. Details aside, it is a project that could hardly have been conceived without the development of Wikidata and its supporting tools. Why not on Wikisource, you cry? Here's why:

The social realities

Group photograph of the Cambridge Wikidata Workshop, with cake
Group photo at the Cambridge Wikidata Workshop, 20 October 2018, in Makespace, 16 Mill Lane, Cambridge UK

I've never been seriously involved with infoboxes, neither here nor from the Wikidata end, yet I have ended up in a project that takes for granted their role: when ScienceSource adds statements to Wikidata, they can appear in infoboxes on Wikipedias in 300 languages.

Last time I wrote for The Signpost about Wikidata, my major theme was the "integration" of Wikimedia sites, facilitated by Wikidata. The infobox mechanism should become infrastructure for that integration and, in the way of such things, ultimately be taken for granted. "Citation reform" here can in principle be carried out as an infrastructural project using the same family of techniques around Lua, though the social realities mean that the frictional forces may be a serious factor for delay.

From my current interests, I would single out the "SPARQL aggregate" as potentially having the same range of benefits for Wikimedia. SPARQL itself may become the first thought for issues of discoverability, because it can cope with disparate inputs as long as their relational structure is clear ("find me authors born in India, writing in English but with a Spanish mother"). What SPARQL aggregates do is to tack onto purely list-making queries any columns that may be computed spreadsheet-style from associated data. It appears to me a rather powerful model.

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Photograph of Petra the African Grey Parrot on the right, with Amazon Alexa to her left and in the center, both on a marble countertop; and an oval clock in the background to the left
Petra the African Grey Parrot and her Amazon Alexa gizmo

I wrote a very similar piece in 2017 about my concerns with Amazon's use of Wikipedia via its electronic devices and their lack of attribution. I didn't realize that I was something of a prophet. At least I knew this was coming, but I am guessing I wasn't the only one who knew that one day their contributions may be commercialized. And now I can say: "I told you so."

We editors have kept contributing content to the encyclopedia even though we knew that one day someone else would be making $$$ off of our words and sentences. I was convinced that what I do for fun (and other loftier goals) would only bring me fame and not profit. I am still okay with that—but I told you so. I knew this day was coming. I knew it the very minute after my words entered the public domain. The commercialization of the sum of all human knowledge is here.

I attended a family gathering last year where one of my siblings was happy to point out that they were the proud owner of four of Amazon's devices. I made sure that I retained my façade of amazement and admiration of their techiness so they would feel all warm and fuzzy inside (always a great goal at family gatherings). Their Alexas were in their lanai,[a] kitchen, master bedroom, and bathroom—go figure. I was introduced to the various models during the tour.

At the end of the tour, the Alexa in the kitchen was asked a question by my sibling: "Alexa, when is the next high tide in Sarasota, Florida?" Even though there was no convenient way to know if she was right or wrong, I was moderately amazed. Alexa was put through her paces spouting the weather report, the score of the Miami Dolphins game that was in progress, and popular songs by Imagine Dragons. My sibling then asked a question related to an upcoming visit with a professional who does things to make people feel better[b] that they were going to have done in the next week.

Amazon lists the talents of the device: "Echo connects to the Alexa Voice Service to play music, make calls, send and receive messages, provide information, news, sports scores, weather, and more—instantly." Google is trying to catch up and has a device that can do similar things. I don't know what database it accesses. I could guess.

Sepia photograph of Morrison Foster with a suit, small bowtie, and thick moustache
Morrison Foster, the other Foster

Then, my sister asked Alexa a question about the upcoming event they were dreading: "Alexa, tell me about [event]." I was crunching away on the appetizers they had out when I heard Alexa give a pretty good, accurate, icy, and dispassionate description of the event. It sounded so familiar—as if I had written it. Well, I had written it, or at least edited that topic's description into its present form. I choked a little on the peanuts, causing some concern (not much, really) to my sibling. "What the [expletive] is wrong with you?" she asked. "I wrote that!" The sibling was not impressed, nor did she believe me. This time, I asked: "Alexa, who is Morrison Foster?" Sure enough, it spat out the exact first sentence of the article I had written. I then asked about another topic and was able to lip sync to Alexa's reply. My sibling began to ponder on the possibility that I might be correct.

Since then, I've been testing the device: I created an article and five minutes later asked her to tell me about the topic—she said she didn't know. So, at least I know Alexa's spiders aren't instantaneous. Google returns new Wikipedia articles[c] by the end of the day and probably doesn't need to store Wikipedia. Also, Alexa doesn't disambiguate: if an article contains a parenthetical title, she can't handle that either. It'll tell you that it doesn't know what you are talking about. I imagine that right now, someone is teaching Alexa how to ask questions that can be answered by a script that reads a disambiguation page and then asks you, the device's current master, to decide what you want. "Are you asking about Alexander Addison the judge or the celebrity?" Alexa doesn't handle obscure questions about non-English topics or topics with pronunciations that don't match the written form, as well.

I don't know what kind of deal Amazon has created with music streaming through Alexa, but I bet the musicians get their royalties due to the success of digital music providers like Pandora Radio, Napster, and Spotify. Amazon has been able to handle music streaming payments and compensation for online music and musicians, after all, especially now with Amazon Music Unlimited. I don't know how Amazon compensates AccuWeather, but I'm sure something of value changes hands.

But the relationship between Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation now has morphed into something new. Amazon has given the Foundation a million dollars. Was this a guilt-ridden donation by Amazon that was meant to make up for their continuing use of Wikipedia? My sibling kept up a conversation with her kitchen-based Alexa, asking Alexa the time, to tell a joke, what its favorite color was, other sports scores and math calculations. I asked Alexa to tell me the value of pi, hoping Alexa would be occupied for at least an hour, but Alexa only recited the answer out to twenty places.

Photograph of the Amazon Echo on a white background
"Alexa, what is proper attribution?"

When I asked Alexa if God can create a rock too heavy for Him to lift; she gave me some lame excuse about how she avoids discussing politics and religion. She can't get every question... for now. After about a dozen times of asking Alexa the same question over the course of two weeks, she had taught herself some kind of real response to the question. So she learns.

I'm actually pouting a little bit about how my brilliant prose and ability to decipher complicated journals has led some geeky, AI geniuses to a job with benefits with Amazon. Have we been exploited? I like the idea that information is available in a new and different way—but doesn't Amazon sell these devices at a profit? I'm pretty sure that Amazon has made a lot more in revenue in selling Alexa than it has contributed to the cause of accessible information—an impressive amount more, actually. A million dollars is not so impressive.


  1. ^ This is a back patio on many Floridan houses where you can sit outside and not catch Zika from the mosquitoes.
  2. ^ You know, like a pedicure, manicure, hair appointment; a Lady's clothing concierge appointment; etc.
  3. ^ That is, except stubs, lists, and some Start-class articles; and presumably only indexed ones.

Reader comments

Wikimedia Commons editors select the images that they believe are the best in this huge collection. Since women astronomers make an appearance in our editorial, we decided astronomy might be an interesting topic. These images reflect our fascination with all things 'planet'. Attribution belongs to NASA in many cases, but click on each image to see full attributions on each corresponding file page. (Is it really true that Pluto failed its classification as a planet? What did the Plutonians do wrong?)


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.

Estimating the Value of Wikimedia Commons

Reviewed by Isaac Johnson

Though Wikimedia projects like Wikipedia are clearly incredibly valuable to people worldwide (e.g., Wikipedia's status as the fifth most popular site worldwide), it has been harder to quantify other facets of this value. Anecdotally, the content from communities like Wikipedia has been incredibly important in the development of natural language processing tools,[supp 1] search engines like Google,[supp 2] and an important resource when making life decisions.[supp 3]

This OpenSym 2018 paper, "What is the Commons Worth? Estimating the Value of Wikimedia Imagery by Observing Downstream Use",[1] attempts to quantify the monetary value of Wikimedia Commons, a peer-produced repository of free-use imagery and video that in part holds the images readers come across on Wikipedia. To do so, the authors pose a counterfactual question: how much would the licensing of this content generate if it operated under a for-profit model such as that of Getty Images? They collect a random dataset of 10,000 images from Commons and do a reverse image-search on them to detect how often they are being used across the internet. The domain of each re-use is then evaluated to determine whether, for instance, it was a commercial entity. Using Getty's licensing model of USD $175 for commercial use and USD $60 for non-commercial use, they extrapolate out how often on average each image is used (and where) to reach a total estimate of USD $28.9 billion for Wikimedia Commons.

While there are interesting discussions to be held about some of the methodological choices that led to their final estimate of USD $28.9 billion for the entirety of Commons – e.g., what is a more reasonable estimate of what proportion of images would be paid for if under license – the general approach and motivation are sound and certainly raise important questions about how we value resources like Wikimedia Commons. This research complements previous estimates of the value of Commons.[supp 4] These are not easy questions, but I'll be excited as more research adds to our understanding of the value of these communities' work.

Cf. earlier coverage: "Estimate for economic benefit of Wikipedia: $50 million by 2006 already"


Conferences and events

See the research events page on Meta-wiki for upcoming conferences and events, including submission deadlines.

Other recent publications

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

Compiled by Tilman Bayer

"Web caching evaluation from Wikipedia request statistics"

From the abstract:[2] "We use publically available statistics about the top-1000 most popular pages on each day to estimate the efficiency of caches for support of the platform. While the data volumes are moderate, the main goal of Wikipedia caches is to reduce access times for page views and edits. We study the impact of most popular pages on the achievable cache hit rate in comparison to Zipf request distributions and we include daily dynamics in popularity."

"Hacking Academic Collaboration with GLAM Edit-a-thons"

From the abstract:[3] "At MIT, librarians, archivists, writing instructors, and local Wikipedians have collaborated to host several edit-a-thons with the common goals of addressing content gaps on Wikipedia and offering the public and the MIT community (including students, staff, alumni and faculty) new ways to engage with the institute's archives and special collections. [...] This article shares results from MIT's GLAM edit-a-thons, and argues that approaching projects from the perspective of Wikipedia's collaborative culture can enhance other kinds of academic collaboration."

"Connecting Wikipedia and the Archive"

From the abstract:[4] "The described project that was started in 2015, was collaboratively designed by archivists and historians with the La Guardia & Wagner Archives ("the Archives") and LaGuardia Community College's faculty and librarians, and involves beginning college students in the production of a needed public history of the outbreak and impact of HIV/AIDS in New York City. [...] Utilization of a Wikipedia as a non-commercial, public, open access information source also succeeds in raising web traffic, visibility and accessibility for unique and valuable archival collections."

"Nonhuman language agents in online collaborative communities: Comparing Hebrew Wikipedia and Facebook translations"

From the abstract:[5] "This study compared language policies in Hebrew Wikipedia and the Hebrew Facebook translation app. Hebrew Wikipedia designed a strict linguistic guide that promotes a neutral Hebrew register, rejecting both colloquial and high registers, enforced by an algorithm post factum."

"Wikipedia's gaps in coverage: are Wikiprojects a solution? A study of the Cambodian Wikiproject"

From the abstract:[6] "The purpose of this paper is to examine the rather unsuccessful Wikiproject for Cambodia. Despite its lack of success, it is a case that can be used to draw lessons for dealing with the issue of geographical under-representation on Wikipedia as a whole. ... The author takes a broadly qualitative approach to the study of Wikipedia. For this study, the Cambodia Wikiproject main page, as well as the various talk page archives associated with it, was downloaded in November 2016 and subjected to a content analysis. Descriptive statistics are also used when necessary to build the argument. Findings: Wikiproject Cambodia has failed to appreciably improve the coverage of Cambodian topics. This is likely due to its inability to attract for a prolonged period of time a champion able to anchor the project and provide a sense that someone is listening. But the makeup of the project members also suggests that even if a champion could be found, the question of who gets to represent whom remains difficult to deal with. It is unlikely that Cambodia will anytime soon develop a strong community of Wikipedia editors given the economic and social constraints the country imposes on the most of its population."

"Representing Metro Manila on Wikipedia"

From the abstract:[7] "While the Wikipedia article on Manila cannot be classified as promotional, it is clear that much of the city remains invisible in this work. Such a puzzle becomes understandable when we examine the urban studies literature where we find that the spatial logic of the city itself helps conceal much from view, so that what we read on Wikipedia is a view from the islands of privilege rather than the oceans of marginalization that make up much of the city's spatial form. If such a spatial structure is to change, representations such as found on Wikipedia need to be challenged."

"How does communicative memory become cultural memory? Negotiation processes on the Wikipedia talk page in case of the White Rose"

"Wie wird kommunikatives zu kulturellem Gedächtnis? Aushandlungsprozesse auf den Wikipedia-Diskussionsseiten am Beispiel der Weißen Rose" (in German)[8]

From the paper (translated): "Finally, the [talk page comments classfied in] the category of personal attacks are remarkable because of their insignificant quantitative dimension. In the context of the White Rose, there was only a single incident of this kind. On the backdrop of widespread hate attacks on the Internet this finding is notable, considering that the resistance against national socialism has never been uncontroversial."


  1. ^ Erickson, Kristofer; Perez, Felix Rodriguez; Perez, Jesus Rodriguez (22 August 2018). "What is the Commons Worth?: Estimating the Value of Wikimedia Imagery by Observing Downstream Use". OpenSym. ACM: 9. doi:10.1145/3233391.3233533.
  2. ^ Hasslinger, G.; Kunbaz, M.; Hasslinger, F.; Bauschert, T. (May 2017). "Web caching evaluation from Wikipedia request statistics". 2017 15th International Symposium on Modeling and Optimization in Mobile, Ad Hoc, and Wireless Networks (WiOpt). 2017 15th International Symposium on Modeling and Optimization in Mobile, Ad Hoc, and Wireless Networks (WiOpt). pp. 1–6. doi:10.23919/WIOPT.2017.7959873. closed access
    Freely available version: Web Caching Evaluation from Wikipedia Request Statistics, The 2nd Content Caching and Delivery in Wireless Networks Workshop (CCDWN), 2017
  3. ^ Thorndike-Breeze, Rebecca; Suiter, Greta Kuriger (2017-09-29). "Hacking Academic Collaboration with GLAM Edit-a-thons". WikiStudies. 1 (1): 65–95.
  4. ^ Matsuuchi, Ann (2017-09-25). "Connecting Wikipedia and the Archive". WikiStudies. 1 (1): 40–64.
  5. ^ Vaisman, Carmel L.; Gonen, Illan; Pinter, Yuval (2018-03-01). "Nonhuman language agents in online collaborative communities: Comparing Hebrew Wikipedia and Facebook translations". Discourse, Context & Media. 21 (Supplement C): 10–17. doi:10.1016/j.dcm.2017.10.002. ISSN 2211-6958. closed access
  6. ^ Luyt, Brendan (2018-02-01). "Wikipedia's gaps in coverage: are Wikiprojects a solution? A study of the Cambodian Wikiproject". Online Information Review. 42 (2): 238–249. doi:10.1108/OIR-06-2017-0199. ISSN 1468-4527. closed access
  7. ^ Luyt, Brendan (2017-11-30). "Representing Metro Manila on Wikipedia". Online Information Review. 42 (1): 16–27. doi:10.1108/OIR-10-2016-0308. ISSN 1468-4527. closed access
  8. ^ Heinrich, Horst-Alfred; Gilowsky, Julia (2018). "Wie wird kommunikatives zu kulturellem Gedächtnis? Aushandlungsprozesse auf den Wikipedia-Diskussionsseiten am Beispiel der Weißen Rose". (Digitale) Medien und soziale Gedächtnisse. Soziales Gedächtnis, Erinnern und Vergessen – Memory Studies. Springer VS, Wiesbaden. pp. 143–167. ISBN 9783658195120. closed access Google Books preview
Supplementary references:
  1. ^ Iderhoff, Nicolas. "nlp-datasets". GitHub. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  2. ^ Singhal, Amit. "Introducing the Knowledge Graph: things, not strings". The Keyword. Google. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  3. ^ Singer, Philipp; Lemmerich, Florian; West, Robert; Zia, Leila; Wulczyn, Ellery; Strohmaier, Markus; Leskovec, Jure (3 April 2017). "Why We Read Wikipedia". International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee: 1591–1600. doi:10.1145/3038912.3052716. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Heald, Paul J.; Erickson, Kris; Kretschmer, Martin (2015). "The Valuation of Unprotected Works: A Case Study of Public Domain Photographs on Wikipedia". SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2560572. ISSN 1556-5068.

Reader comments

From the talk page of Orange (not the color)

Editor's note: Orange (fruit) now has a series of wholesome, appealing images thanks to the industriousness of Wikipedia volunteers and a not-insignificant contribution from the Florida Orange Growers Association. The image seen here is for historical context only, and not meant to disparage Florida oranges in any way, nor the fruit nor any tree product of any sub-national entity.

Unflattering Picture of a Sectioned Orange
Photograph of a navel orange, peeled and sectioned; the underdeveloped twin fruit is located on the bottom-right
Anti-orange propaganda
Photograph of a bunch of Royal Gala Apples from Chile
An apple cabal meeting

I think this picture is unflattering if not disgusting. Who would want to eat an orange after seeing that picture? I honestly wouldn't be surprised if it were inserted by somebody in the apple industry (known to be unscrupulous) or somebody with an extreme dislike of oranges. A picture that unflattering does not occur by mistake and I'm quite certain there is an agenda behind it. I know that this page is meant to be informative and not pro-orange, but that picture is treading into the dangerous territory of being anti-orange. I'm not saying that we should use the most flattering picture of a sectioned orange available on the 'net, but surely a compromise can be reached. I nominate that it be removed or changed in favor of a more neutral picture. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

Yes this is clearly a far-malus conspiracy to drive down orange sales among the compulsive wikipedia browsing population. Please take whatever action you feel is necessary to restore the vital balance of presentation so that the prolitariate may once again rejuice. - JustinWick 19:01, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
I think the picture is acceptable, and I think it is difficult for a picture to be neutral. Note that the same IP address also believes that oranges do not grow on trees WLU 19:03, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
I do not think you truely grasp the extent to which apple fans will go to sabotage their competition. I hereby declare that all images of oranges on Wikipedia should be examined for NPOVness., why don't you get on this ASAP? - JustinWick 21:28, 23 January 2007 (UTC)
WLU - That is disingenuous and a complete misrepresentation of anything I've ever posted. Of course oranges grow on trees. I have a lot of knowledge of and experience with oranges. I simply made the point that there are those who remain unconvinced - and those people do exist. If you don't think that's worth noting, then fine, I can live with that. But that's not really what we're talking about right now. Anyhow, if I can find a more flattering picture do you really mind if I change it? JustinWick sees exactly what I am talking about (lol @ rejuice!). I am not about to accuse you of being the person who posted the offending picture or of being involved in the apple industry, but my antenna is up. Cheers!—The preceding unsigned comment was added by 04:09, January 24, 2007 (talkcontribs).
WLU, are you some kind of apple sympathizer? Why do you defend a picture that is clearly not in the best interests of our daily nutritional needs. The anon might not go so far as to accuse you of conspiracy, but it's clear to me that you are at the very least an apple sympathizer. Anon, can you take a better picture yourself? You seem to have a deep knowledge of oranges, and you at least live harmoniously with them in your life. WLU, go back to your cider press or whatever and let us fix this egregious crime against one of nature's most beautious botanical bounties. - JustinWick 22:37, 4 February 2007 (UTC)
All the power to you if you can find a better picture of an orange. The rest of your contributions are POV, unsourced and use weasel words. WLU
So, let me understand this right. The Signpost has an article about a picture of an orange. Ya know after going through a number of goat ropes while attempting to edit here; I personally believe this is a stunning picture and deserves all of the attention in gets.WHY? Because somewhere, in some place, is some poor bastard being transformed into an emotional tampon over a picture of a damned sectioned orange...BRAVOCoal town guy (talk) 03:00, 2 November 2018 (UTC)

From the talk page of Zirconia

Move for deletion?
Photograph of either a diamond or cubic zirconia; checking the filename is cheating
Is this the zirconia? Or...
Photograph of either a diamond or cubic zirconia; checking the filename is cheating this the zirconia?

My wife found out that her ring was cubic zirconia. I told her that that meant it was extra rare and valuable. I propose we delete this article, or I am in some serious shit. She is a big wikipedia user and she might see this page, but I don't want to vandalize... Please :( —Preceding unsigned comment added by Oreo man (talkcontribs)

Sorry, I'm afraid you're doomed. Tuck your head down and kiss the boys goodbye, is all the advice I can offer! --Grey Knight 04:06, 23 November 2006 (UTC)
You don't have a special right to request an article's deletion just because you screwed up. But you have to say, cubic zirconia is shiny, and we all know people can't resist shiny objects. :D The First Doll 07:37, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, you're screwed. But I do agree that cubic zirconium is shiny. --science4sail talkcon 02:36, 31 January 2007 (UTC)
hahaha your dead when your wife finds this page--Blue-Eyes Gold Dragon 08:36, 2 September 2007 (UTC)
Or 'Talk page highlights'... (talk) 09:13, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

From the talk page of George Washington (inventor)

Photograph of a sketch of the inventor George Washington as a stickman with a top hat and cup of hot instant coffee
An approximation of Mr. Washington's appearance based on available historical information

In lieu of contemporary photographs or paintings, here is an artist's rendition of Washington, with coffee. --Jeffrey O. Gustafson - Shazaam! - <*> 15:46, 31 March 2007 (UTC)

You know, if you've read the article recently, he should really have a monkey sitting on his shoulder :)--Pharos 15:56, 31 March 2007 (UTC)
♥♥♥ ShadowHalo 20:13, 31 March 2007 (UTC)

From the talk page for notability guidelines for septuagenarian female plumbers with red hair and freckles

Scope of species included
Photograph of a beaver
The plumber just showed up and will charge $275 just for walking through your front door.

It is not clear if this proposal is meant to apply to only humans (homo sapien), or also to beavers (castor canadensis, castor fiber), particularly the American beaver, which also has red fur (and builds water control systems). Peet Ern (talk) 01:53, 5 August 2008 (UTC)

Very few beavers are going to reach septuagenarian status, and if they do, then that in and of itself is notable. --Kevin Murray (talk) 01:57, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
I think you will find it is more than you might realise. I assume we are counting species years, for example, human years versus dog years versus beaver years. Peet Ern (talk) 02:53, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
I stand corrected. But does this mean expanding this page or adding another more specific guideline re Beavers who plumb in old age? --Kevin Murray (talk) 02:58, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
It depends. If the old age plumbing beaver is also a horse jockey who formed a pop group and recorded one song then they should have their own guideline. Otherwise they should be included in the generic WP:NF70+PB guideline. Peet Ern (talk) 03:14, 5 August 2008 (UTC)
A pressing question is also whether the hair color of the beaver is different from that of the plumber.--Father Goose (talk) 02:54, 7 August 2008 (UTC)
Careful! We're talking plumbing not anatomy. --Kevin Murray (talk) 05:10, 7 August 2008 (UTC)

From the Reference desk's science archives

Spontaneous Hummingbird Combustion

[[|center|250px|alt=Photograph of a reconstructed representation of the aftermath of human spontaneous combustion]]

Is this the hummingbird? Or...
Photograph of a hummingbird feeding from a flower this the hummingbird seconds before ignition?

I have heard it claimed that if a human's metabolic rate was somehow increased to match that of a hummingbird, the human would burst into flames. Is this true, and if so, how was it calculated? And for that matter, what prevents hummingbirds from spontaneously combusting if their metabolism is as high as this claim implies? (talk) 15:19, 4 February 2015 (UTC)

What you've stated is a common misconception. Hummingbirds are bursting into flame all the time. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 17:20, 4 February 2015 (UTC)
[impressive amount of people-taking-it-seriously discussion removed]
What do you mean? African or European Hummingbirds? It's a question of weight ratios. really all it means is that we'd have enough muscles and energy to flap hard enough to fly and use the air as coolant. Probably be very fast swimmers too. --DHeyward (talk) 18:32, 4 February 2015 (UTC)
DHeyward, the issue is that the hummingbirds don't combust when they carry a coconut together on a line. Nyttend (talk) 18:31, 6 February 2015 (UTC)
We had a cold snap the other night. The only birds that weren't flash-freezing in mid-flight were the local hummingbirds. New York One news was advising people who found sparrows and other songbirds frozen in mid-air to scoop them up with a fishing net, and microwave them on low for five minutes or so, depending on the make and wattage. μηδείς (talk) 18:44, 4 February 2015 (UTC)
"And as I fricaseed him, he gave out a yell: 'Oy! Willow! Titwillow! Willow!'" --Allan Sherman[1]Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 18:53, 4 February 2015 (UTC)

The above talk page discussions have been slightly refactored for brevity, clarity, and accessibility. The solutions to last issue's crossword puzzle can be found here. Do you want to contribute to "Humour" or write 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.

Reader comments

Much has been said about the events surrounding Donna Strickland's Nobel Prize and the Wikipedia article about her that was declined before she won it. Little attention has been paid to the perspective of the reviewer who declined it, though. What follows is a review of the Strickland incident, and what can be learned from it, by the reviewer himself.

On May 23, 2018, I (Bradv) declined a draft article about Donna Strickland. The draft had been created by Campbpt0 two months earlier, on March 28, 2018, and no other editors had contributed to it in the meantime. The author had made no other edits to Wikipedia either before or since.

This draft has received considerable media attention, and attracted a variety of comments from around the community about my actions, perceived problems with the Articles for Creation project, and about gender bias on Wikipedia, particularly as it pertains to women working in STEM fields.

This essay is a personal review and reflection of what happened, what might have been done differently, and what we could possibly change going forward.

Draft review

Claims of notability

At the time I reviewed it, the draft made several claims of notability. Strickland is an associate professor at the University of Waterloo, she co-invented chirped pulse amplification, she is an associate chair of the physics department, she is a fellow of The Optical Society (OSA), and she won three additional awards.

As an academic, the relevant guideline for establishing notability is WP:PROF. The general notability guideline does not apply to this article, but the rest of the notability guideline, including the section on requiring verifiable evidence (WP:NRV) does apply. WP:NRV states:

The common theme in the notability guidelines is that there must be verifiable, objective evidence that the subject has received significant attention from independent sources to support a claim of notability.

My conclusion at this point was that the topic was potentially notable, even though the strongest claim of notability (that she was an OSA Fellow) lacked a direct citation. As the next step in the review process I took a look at the sources to see if they supported the claims, and if they were reliable and independent of the subject.

Reliable sources

There were three sources provided in the draft:

  1. D. Strickland and G. Mourou, “Compression of amplified chirped optical pulses”, Opt. Commun. 56, 219 (1985)
  2. The Optical Society Biography:

Of these, none were independent as required by NRV and PROF. The first was published by the author, the second is a biography published by The Optical Society (which claims Strickland as past president), and the third is a biography at the University of Waterloo, where she works.

This is a common occurrence at AfC. Editors who are new to Wikipedia seek what is in their minds the most authoritative sources, such as official biographies, and are confused when we request to see news articles instead. Usually an informative decline message, followed by a discussion on a talk page or the Teahouse, is enough for them to come up with reliable sources, or to realize that the subject itself is not notable enough for an article.

Unfortunately in this case, the original author had already abandoned this venture, and the draft went entirely unnoticed for over 4 months.

Nobel Prize

On October 2, 2018, Strickland won a Nobel Prize for Physics. Within 90 minutes of the announcement a new article was created, directly in mainspace this time. The media quickly noted that Strickland had not previously had an article. The Atlantic wrote:

Unlike her fellow winners, Strickland did not have a Wikipedia page at the time of the announcement. A Wikipedia user tried to set up a page in May, but it was denied by a moderator with the message: “This submission’s references do not show that the subject qualifies for a Wikipedia article.” Strickland, it was determined, had not received enough dedicated coverage elsewhere on the internet to warrant a page.[1]

Similar articles from Quartz,[2] Vox,[3] The Guardian,[4] Der Spiegel,[5] and Le Monde[6] pointed to the decline of the draft as evidence of the "marginalization of women in science and gender bias at Wikipedia," as her male colleague has had a Wikipedia page since 2005.[4] As an aside, these news articles all fail to mention that George Smith, who won a Nobel Prize the previous day, had not been the subject of a Wikipedia article before the announcement, either. According to research by KalHolmann, over one-third of all Nobel laureates since 2001 do not have Wikipedia articles on them when the prize is announced.[7]


That same day, I began receiving messages from other editors that this was in the news, and various editors began analyzing and questioning my actions to see if something had gone wrong. These discussions happened in several places, including my talk page, the talk page of the new article, Women in Red, and AfC. While many experienced editors understood my reasoning, others criticized my decline, either based on the expectation that I should have accepted the draft in its state at the time, or that I should have looked for additional sources and improved the article myself.

While most of the criticism came from people unfamiliar with the policies and procedures of Wikipedia, several very senior and respected administrators took me to task on- and off-wiki, claiming I should have known that The Optical Society was a reliable source, and that independent sources are not required for PROF.

Taking these criticisms seriously, and armed with the benefit of hindsight, I reviewed my actions along with the relevant policies and guidelines to see what could be learned.

Policy, guidelines, and procedures

Biographies of living persons

After the 2005 Seigenthaler incident, Wikipedia found it necessary to adopt strict guidelines around editing biographies of living people. The BLP policy says, in its lede:

We must get the article right. Be very firm about the use of high-quality sources.

Especially at Articles for Creation, which faces a continuous onslaught of spam and poorly-sourced biographies, reviewers need to be keenly aware of this policy. There are countless biographies posted every day of people linking to their own organization's website as proof of notability. These are declined summarily, with a message to the author that they need to find sources that are independent of the topic.

In that respect, this draft was treated no differently. This was a single-purpose account who created a poorly-sourced biography. A decline, with a message left to the author with an invitation to the Teahouse, or to the reviewer's talk page, is all that was needed. Unfortunately, the author chose not to engage further, and no other editors came along to help improve the draft.


Determining notability for academics is a notoriously difficult process. PROF is a specific notability guideline, which means that it is used as an alternative to the general notability guideline. GNG insists on significant coverage in reliable sources that are independent of the subject, but PROF merely requires that the information is verifiable. The relevant test for this article in PROF is the third criterion:

The person is or has been an elected member of a highly selective and prestigious scholarly society or association (e.g., a National Academy of Sciences or the Royal Society) or a fellow of a major scholarly society which reserves fellow status as a highly selective honor (e.g., Fellow of the IEEE).

At the time I declined the draft, it made the claim that Strickland was a fellow of The Optical Society (OSA). However, the claim was supported only by a reference to OSA itself, which fails WP:NRV as not being independent, and it fails the very first line of PROF which states:

Subjects of biographical articles on Wikipedia are required to be notable; that is significant, interesting, or unusual enough to be worthy of notice, as evidenced by being the subject of significant coverage in independent reliable secondary sources.

This claim required at least one additional reliable source. WHYN, which explains the purpose of notability guidelines, states:

* We require the existence of at least one secondary source so that the article can comply with [Wikipedia's] No original research's requirement that all articles be based on secondary sources.

Furthermore, WHYN specifically states that it applies "to all articles, not solely articles justified under the general notability criteria."

Articles for Creation

The AfC flowchart

Various editors have suggested that this could have been resolved by a WP:BEFORE search before declining the draft. However, this procedure applies specifically to nominating articles for deletion, and is not a requirement of the AfC process. AfC is designed specifically to help new editors write their own articles, to give them time to improve them and learn how Wikipedia works before subjecting them to the harsh environment of mainspace. However, AfC is not a place to request that someone else write an article, like WP:RA. But it is also not one user's sandbox, which doesn't allow for other contributors to help. The idea with AfC is that other people can contribute to the article, but that no one, including reviewers, is obligated to do so.

Where BEFORE comes into play at AfC is when nominating a draft for deletion at WP:MFD, which is an attempt to gain community consensus that a draft has no value to the project and should be deleted.

Judging notability

Notability, as it pertains to Wikipedia, is a judgement of the subject of an article, not the content of the article itself. There are plenty of notable subjects that don't have Wikipedia articles. When a draft is reviewed at AfC, it is evaluated based on the information that is presented in the article, and whether that information, together with its sources, is sufficient to establish notability. Therefore, even if a subject is notable, a draft is often declined for insufficient sources. That is not a judgement on the topic's notability – that is a judgement on the state of the draft, and a request for improvement.


The AfC flowchart requires that reviewers check that topics don't already exist, are encyclopedic, are notable, and are reliably sourced. For living persons, it requires an additional check that inline citations are used. This draft failed both the reliably sourced checkpoint and the inline citation checkpoint.

Presently the flowchart makes no mention of WP:SOFIXIT or WP:BEFORE. Many reviewers, including myself, occasionally fix up and accept drafts in this state, but there is presently no requirement to do so before declining a draft.


With the benefit of hindsight, I wish that I had taken a few extra minutes to search for additional sources and promote this draft to mainspace myself. Obviously I could not have known that Strickland would win a Nobel prize, nor could I have known that the original author wasn't going to stick around to develop this further and see their work successfully reviewed.

Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to work on an article on a Canadian who would later make history, and I missed it.

Going forward

In the days following the media attention, several observations have been made about things that we could do differently. Without any changes to the guidelines or processes, this incident is very likely to be repeated.

Attract more editors

It is a crying shame that only two people ever made an attempt to write an article about Strickland. The first, from 2014, was deleted as a blatant copyright violation.[8] The second, in May, was abandoned as quickly as it was submitted, the author likely deterred by the two month backlog at AfC. The author of the draft was welcomed, was invited to the Teahouse, and was invited to engage in conversation with other editors and reviewers about the draft.

I hope that the media attention about the lack of coverage of women in Wikipedia will help attract more editors. Evidence from past controversies suggests it will.

Attract more AfC reviewers

There is presently a backlog of approximately 4,000 drafts, with a wait time of over two months. AfC has suffered from a number of reviewers abandoning the WikiProject due to criticism, and has been criticized broadly for years across the Wikipedia community. Any expectations of additional work to be done by AfC reviewers, such as a BEFORE search, will drastically increase the backlog and increase the need for more reviewers.

Require a BEFORE search when declining AfC drafts

If a BEFORE search were part of the AfC workflow when declining drafts, this step could turn up additional sources and lead to a definitive answer on whether the reviewer thinks the subject is notable, per WP:NEXIST. The impact of this change on the AfC project and on the article creation process would have to be carefully considered, but in the wake of this incident a proposal to change this may need to be brought to the community.

AfC sorting

A system of sorting and tagging AfC drafts based on topic area or potential notability would help draw experts into AfC, which could help improve drafts such as this. WP:DELSORT, a similar project at WP:AFD, could be used as a starting point.

Clearly identify reliable sources

It is not clear that The Optical Society is considered a reliable source. A quick look at our article on the society at the time reveals conflict of interest issues, including a reliance on self-published sources. The society is not mentioned as reliable in WP:PROF, nor is there any evidence of Wikipedia editors arriving at a consensus as to the reliability of this source.

Resolve discrepancies between PROF and N

Various editors have claimed that WP:PROF does not require independent sourcing, yet WP:N, particularly WP:NRV states that the requirement for independent reliable sources applies to all articles, even if they are subject to a specific notability guideline such as PROF.

Abolish AfC

If none of the above can be done, the community may want to consider whether to abolish AfC altogether. If this draft had been created directly in mainspace, it would have likely languished as a poorly-sourced BLP, but at least we would have had an article. (I'm not sure that's preferable, but it may be a conversation for the community to have.)

Be grateful for the media attention

The lack of coverage of biographies of women in Wikipedia is a well-known problem, and after this media attention even more people are aware of it. WikiProject Women in Red have worked hard to provide balance, but still more editors are needed.

Awareness of the issue of gender bias goes beyond Wikipedia as well. Katherine Maher of the Wikimedia Foundation tweeted in response to this media attention:

Journalists — if you’re going to come after @Wikipedia for it’s coverage of women, check your own coverage first. We’re a mirror of the world’s biases, not the source of them. We can’t write articles about what you don’t cover.[9]

Or as Le Monde says:

Is the blame on Wikipedia, the media, the research? "We live in a world where a woman won a Nobel Prize without even being promoted to a professor, and you wonder why women leave the university world," says a young researcher on Twitter. "Between this status and the debacle of the Wikipedia page, what is certain is that her work is (or at least was) not considered as it should have. This seems recurrent among women in the academic world."[6]

It is my hope that the criticism of this event and all the media attention will help to make Wikipedia better in its quest to document the sum of all human knowledge. If some of us have to take a beating for this, at least it's a worthy cause.[10]

See also


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Due to the impact of Sue Gardner's comments on Triage (the development project for Page Curation) for New Page Patrolling, this interview is reprinted, unabridged, from the newspaper's January 2011 issue. Gardner was executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation from December 2007 through May 2014

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