Category Archives: Wikipedia

Technoference and Emojipedia – Part of our evolving vocabulary

While you were not paying attention, a new vocab has been tying up its shoes and sprinting through the techno-social-media crowd. (Sorry I just made up that super-hyphenated word.)

Emojipedia does exist. It’s a place where you could find such things as a ‘Man teacher: medium skin tone’. (Several variants, actually, as seen on Facebook, Samsung devices and Google.) If you’re looking for a person shrugging (not sure why, but…) there are 18 variants, and you’ll find some for world events and animals and such.

I could give you some even more obscure words, especially if you want to flummox someone. Try fudgel. It means one is pretending to work though basically fudging. Or ‘Grok.‘ If you haven’t run into this, I guess you don’t quite grok this post.



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Polar Vortex gets media massage – delicious left-wing/right wing debate

Breaking News. Limbaugh’s argument freezes on contact! 

I have to admit the term Polar Vortex at first sounded a bit of verbosity aimed at making a big story out of a weather phenomenon.

But I did look it up, and find that for once, it is not one of those media marquees trotted out by a TV station’s graphics department.

But it turned out to be a delicious controversy, when good old Rush Limbaugh stuck his tongue out at the equivalent of a frigid lamp-post.  I first picked up the detail in the Discussion Pages of Wikipedia. One Charles Edwin, a Wikipedia editor (biting his tongue, no doubt) left this terse note in the Talk Pages:

“a lot about the media frenzy. Rush Limbaugh, like others, say they remember cold winters and walking to school in massive snow, uphill, both ways. 🙂 Rush Limbaugh is a student of global weather and expects there may be a three-day gap in the cold for Superbowl Sunday.”

Limbaugh called the term something invented by the left-wing media. Predictably so, since Limbaugh makes everything sound like a conspiracy, since that is the jet fuel which powers his craft. Here’s what he said on Monday.

“Now, in their attempt, the left, the media, everybody, to come up with a way to make this sound like it’s something new and completely unprecedented, they’ve come up with this phrase called the “polar vortex.”

To which weatherman Al Roker, threw a nice counterpunch, by revealing and reading from a 1959 college text-book that had the term Polar Vortex defined.

Sometimes these silly spats teach us something, especially about speaking out of turn –with poor facts.

Now if you’re wondering why I would be interested in this the Vortex debate it’s this. I just got back to school today, and as is normal, interrupted my lesson plan to get my fifth- and sixth-grade students to do a project on the Polar Vortex. 

As I used to tell people when discussing social media and the oft-contested topic called the ‘wisdom of the crowds,’ poking around the talk pages can take you to down some interesting paths.

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Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Media, Wikipedia


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Wikis to books worth experimenting

I often make the point that we spend too much time clicking on links, rather than spending time on the meaning of what we read.

So I thought of experimenting with PediaPress, a service that lets you convert Wikipedia pages into a book.

The book? On Clark University – for my son’s graduation today.

Knowing fully well that information on the university will change, did not bother me. In fact, that’s precisely why I wanted to do it. After all, Wikipedia content is not exactly writ in stone, could be considered as relevant for a moment in time.

(If you’ve been watching how pages get edited, and the edit wars that ensue over single words or phrases, you’ll know that this ‘moment’ sometimes changes several times an hour as a result of furious edit wars!) I want the book to be a sort of  time capsule that he could one day look back on.

PediaPress is basically offering a print on demand (POD) service, but the beauty of this is how simple they have made the steps. There’s very limited customization (the cover and title, plus a preface), but the layout of pages and sections are very clean.

I would have liked a bit more customization, such as:

  • The ability to move photographs and charts into separate pages
  • Uploading my own photograph for the cover, and a few others for other pages
  • An acknowledgment or title page
  • Adding text to back cover

But as this was an experiment, I was willing to take the risk.

Other risks. For a different project, say trying to compile a short compendium of knowledge on a breaking news event, or a current topic, using Wikipedia as the source of content is more risky. While the Creative Commons license gives anyone permission to use and re-purpose content, one has to me meticulous about accuracy.

I began to wonder of there are other similar services that let you blend knowledge from multiple sources, and let you add chapters to the book. I’ve looked at Blurb, which offers a Blog-to-Book option. Lulu also has a great service. a cookbook/ A book of poetry/ Wikipedia has a rich selection.

Give it a try!


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Wikipedia’s ‘truth’ formula needs tweaking. But by whom?

There’s has been a great discussion going on about what it takes for someone to edit an article on Wikipedia. I recently received an invitation to a survey of communicators on my experiences with editing wiki entries. Apparently this is connected to a point raised by Phil Gomes of Edelman Digital, who brought this up, creating a Facebook group to think it through. The group is called CREWE —which stands for Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement.

The story of who could edit Wikipedia goes back some two years, when Timothy Messer-Kruse tried to edit an article, and was rebuffed –scolded, really — by Wikipedia’s editors.  Read his article here. Messer-Kruse is an author of several books, including one on race relations. In other words, he’s not someone who just popped by Wikipedia and had an ax to grind.

Prior to that, there were more egregious cases where vandals, and  ‘trolls’ changed biographies of people or created conflict within the editors.

Fast forward to what CREWE is proposing. There’s a task force of communicators from IABC and PRSA looking into Wikipedia’s policies. I was asked to join, and gladly agreed.

If you are interested in following this development, join the Facebook group. I also came across this page  that summarizes what Wikipedia expects of editors.

  • Subjects require significant coverage in independent reliable sources.
  • Your role is to inform and reference, not promote or sell.
  • Write without bias, as if you don’t work for the company or personally know the subject.
  • State facts and statistics, don’t be vague or general.
  • Take time to get sources and policy right and your content will last.
  • Be transparent about your conflict of interest
  • Get neutral, uninvolved editors to review your content
  • Work with the community and we’ll work with you.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.

It’s more complicated than this, trust me, but it’s a start. There’s a line on this page that states “Be patient and open to cooperation: no one here is out to get you.” But hearing about some folk’s experiences, it sure feels like a tough space to operate in.

There’s also a page on Wikipedia that states Wikipedia is about verifiability, not truth. But there are other nuances, such as NOR – No Original Research– and Be Bold to master if you want to craft Wikipedia article that adheres to its formula for wiki truth. Worth reading, if your organization expects you to monitor and create content.


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Where are the ‘conversations’ after the Tucson shootings?

The shootings last Saturday in Tucson set a horrific tone for the new year for all of us in Arizona.

The tone has all become politically charged, vitriolic, cascading into media finger-pointing, political caricatures, party bashing. It’s time for everyone to cool their jets, and rally together as a community. We are still in a state of shock.

Speaking of shock, this hit me when I ran into Walmart very early this morning to pick up a bottle of medicine for my daughter. There was hardly anyone in the store. I went up to a lady in the pharmacy stocking the shelves to ask for help and she shrieked! It must have seemed as if someone had crept up behind her. She apologized profusely, and pointed me to the shelf. But I went away thinking this might be the thumbnail of how we are all feeling as a nation, caught off guard.

We have seen a sad decline in discourse in this country. We don’t spend enough time engaging it it because, frankly, people don’t even know, or care, what discourse means. It’s not a synonym for comment wars. Or mocking wall postings and adhoc pages on Facebook. Or rude posters and Tshirts at rallies. I picked this definition (an archaic one for sure!) that says discourse is the “mode of organizing knowledge, ideas, or experience that is rooted in language and its concrete contexts.” The word ‘conversations’ — a term we social media types use flippantly, sometimes — have a lot to do with it.

Social media  both informed us and confused us over the past few days. You probably saw this in the wrong ‘reports’ that were quickly repeated and re-tweeted. Things were less heated at Wikipedia, on the entry for Gabrielle Giffords. The editors were more civil, debating the reports that she had died, and whether to use the Sarah Palin map, just because other media were mentioning it. In short, there was –and still is — some restraint.

Maybe we could learn a thing of two from the discourse, based on established guidelines, at Wikipedia. Maybe we should all calm down a bit, and not feel the need to shriek when something of this magnitude creeps up on us.


Here are some thoughtful commentaries on how social media has played out so far:

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Posted by on January 10, 2011 in Social Media, Twitter, Wikipedia



Fear of Wikis may grow after Wikileaks

Have you ever edited a Wiki, let alone created one? It’s a lot of work at the front end to start one. I used to create small wikis on WetPaint for projects just to let a handful of people collaborate, since it eliminates the back-and-forth emails, and the friction that may arise about editing rights to a document.

But each time I recommend creating a wiki, I see a lot of blank stares; eyes begin to roll. No surprise. After all, it still involves understanding a bit of code, and is not as sexy as say a blog platform. But I suspect that the fear-and-loathing factor will now come into play, with the latest round of Wikileaks.

The media covers it more as a cat-and-mouse game with Julian Asange on the run. The site itself has been under attack appareantly, and is being mirrored elsewhere.

The site carries this line, “Have documents the world needs to see?” which is all about contributing and sharing. Wikipedia, whose central tenet is centered around sharing (“People of all ages, cultures and backgrounds can add or edit article prose, references, images and other media here.” ) is all about creating information that people may need to access.

There are other Wikis worth taking a look at, if only to diffuse the anxiety about sharing documents online.

  • Take Open Congress. It claims to be “an online encyclopedia about Congress, but more than that, it’s built entirely by readers like yourself. You can write about the importance of a particular vote on a critical piece of legislation, or document your senator’s position on issues like foreign policy, taxation and the environment.”
  • There are Education Wikis like this, created by Librarians, Charter schools, drama teachers. There are platforms such as Knol, and Open Education Wiki.

And I am only scratching the surface of how wide and deep Wiki use is. I just hope, once the WikiLeaks rumpus blows over, we will see a lot more valuable work on wikis.

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Posted by on December 1, 2010 in Social Media, Wikipedia


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Wikipedia appears to beat media in Chilean miner rescue

By chance I checked Wikipedia on the Chilean  miner rescue operation underway now (9.15 PM Pacific), and was pleasantly surprised to see two things going on:

The first was that Wikipedians are updating the site faster that Google results of news of the rescue operation.

San Jose Mercury News, Yahoo and others come up on search for ‘miner rescue’ with news

that one miner has been rescued.

Wikipedians noted that there have been two miners brought to the surface.

It took about another 10 minutes for the rest of the media reports to show up with this detail.

Meanwhile CBS News is streaming video via Ustream!

The second curious phenomenon will probably be discussed at length in the weeks after this. In what is clearly a sign of the times, where everyone is now a reporter,  the video from the mine captures at least two of the trapped miners photographing (or videoing maybe?) the event that they are part of!

Who’s watching what here? Who’s updating whom here? This is breaking news, and the subjects are reporting the story!


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