The Longest Now


Plagiarising satire as news
Sunday February 27th 2011, 8:31 pm
Filed under: fly-by-wire,international,metrics,Not so popular,Rogue content editor

Today the Tehran Times, an English-language paper based in Tehran, and other Iranian news sources, engaged in a bit of Internet journalism, copying some satire (‘Saudi king offers to buy Facebook for $150B to end revolt’) — down to a misspelling of Zuck’s name — into a summary of news on the King’s announced plans for social reform (providing cheap land for housing). This got its fifteen minutes of fame on forums and Twitter, enough to draw a brief official denial.

It’s not news that minor news agencies can be too busy to check facts or worry about copyright, but you’d think they would be more sensitive to satire. All I have to say is: Freshrant made the joke first.



Cat Shit One
Wednesday February 23rd 2011, 12:32 am
Filed under: fly-by-wire,indescribable,Too weird for fiction

Motofumi Kobayashi’s infamous “metal gear bunny” comic about USA GIs in the Vietnam War (released in the US as Apocalypse Meow) is now a slickly produced animated series. It is a careful 3D rendering of the original, bloodless body count and all.



La Voz Del Mako
Sunday February 06th 2011, 6:55 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,chain-gang,international,poetic justice,Too weird for fiction

Some things are too good to mako up: The prison-blogging project La Voz Del Mako, “un espacio libre para los reclusos” at Centro Penitenciario de Albolote in Spain, apparently began life as a newspaper of the same name a dozen years ago. The current director of the prison said, in setting up the blog, “I wanted to open more than prison.” It’s not quite Between the Bars, but it looks like an interesting cloistered-community-wide effort.



Editor-to-Reader ratio on Wikipedia: a visual history
Sunday February 06th 2011, 8:12 am
Filed under: %a la mod,Blogroll,chain-gang,international,metrics,wikipedia

After early exponential community growth, editing on Wikipedia has slowed recently. The number of readers, on the other hand, grows steadily. Over the past 3 years, the number of active monthly editors in all languages has declined by 12% (and twice that in English). But the effective change in active editors per reader may be 4x as large.

This change in how many readers become editors points to both a problem and a short-term solution: On the one hand, we have many more people coming to the projects who don’t know they can edit, find no reason to do so, or are discouraged before becoming active. On the other, we reach many more people than in the past, so effective changes in messaging, tools, or policy have a larger impact.

Mako and I were discussing this last night, leading to some back-of-the-envelope calculations (using some of the many great stats resources the Foundation maintains) and a heady R + ggplot session, which turned into a beautiful post on copyrighteous:

Unlike all those other [encyclopedia projects] Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Wikipedia is powerful because it allow its users to transcend their role as consumers of the information they use to understand the world. Wikipedia allows users to define the reference works that define their understanding of the their environment and each other. But 99.98% of the time, readers do not transcend that role. I think that’s a problem.

Read the full post.



Wikipedia loves editors: 2011 campaigns?
Saturday February 05th 2011, 10:16 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,fly-by-wire,Glory, glory, glory,popular demand,wikipedia

Wikimedia had a terribly successful fundraising campaign ths year, with a team of stats-loving traffic and feedback analysts learning a lot about our reading audience and how to connect with them. There was diverse support for the idea of running some banners to promote donating time and expertise and edits as well as money, and some general-purpose “discover Wikimedia” banners were run the first week of January, but this was soon overtaken by preparations for the (wickedly fun) 10th anniversary celebrations.

We should do more of this. The idea of inviting people more explicitly to edit, and running campaigns dedicated to this, is more fundamental to the nature of Wikipedia than fundraising itself. We should be thinking about all year round, spending as much time and effort campaigning for meaningful content contributions as we have for funds.

What would that look like? Here is one idea: WikiProjects could be encouraged to write copy for their own banners, from a hook to a detailed call for what they need. These would be run for a % of new visitors proportional to the project’s capacity to absorb new contributors. A few generic projects would be geared up for a larger influx of editors, and established editors would be asked to help work with those newbies (and to set up comfort zones where they can find and help one another).

The generic projects would ramp up slowly; with one month’s newbies helping welcome those who came the next month. Some new policies regarding working with newbies would need to be proposed on the major wikis, possibly with a group like the original Fire Brigade dedicated to helping the ambassadors and welcomers with the extra load. And the specific WikiProjects could continue to draw in as many new editors as they want, and could try out different messages to attract just the right sort of reader (including efforts at targetting specific kinds of readers).

What do you think? How would you reach out to readers if you could change the way the site looks? (What ever happened to the idea of highlighting the “edit this page” tab?) Over 1% of people who saw the best fundraising messages clicked through them — imagine what we could do if we showed all of those people that they could really edit.



Wikipedia Demographics
Saturday February 05th 2011, 4:57 am
Filed under: international,metrics,wikipedia

We still need better demographic data, and an understanding of our own sample biases, as this recent floatingsheep article indicates.



Random Hacks of Kindness — hacking subverted?
Thursday February 03rd 2011, 7:00 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,fly-by-wire,null,Rogue content editor,Uncategorized

RHOK has a great name (if only an OK acronym) and sweet mandate: hacking to save the world. They work with Crisis Commons and other grassroots groups, organizing physical meetings to hack for two days with a competition theme (prizes for the best hacks). Great, right?

But is this a meme whose time has come, that’s been subverted by people who aren’t hackers? How will it change over time? The proof may be in the results, but the corporate firepower lined up behind this project, and the vagueness of how its organizing takes place, make me wonder. From a recent NPR piece on the project:

Patrick Svenburg, a director for Microsoft and a co-founder of Random Hacks of Kindness, says it was a little risky at first.

“We threw all cautions to the wind, and we got a little group of people together in November of 2009 at the first hackathon in Silicon Valley,” he says. “About 100 people showed up. I didn’t get fired; nobody got fired. It was a nice experiment.”

Indeed. More than 20 cities took part in RHOK #2, so let’s hope it continues to thrive.




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