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Flog of the Prokonsul

Internet fluency, digital governance and Wikipedia propaganda. You have been warned.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Good start on the Wikipedia's digital dividepage

In recent days we have done some nice work on the digital divide page. Chrislems has updated some references, and worked on some other issues - thank you - and our leader (Stustu12) has greatly improved the introduction to the article (lead).

While we are finishing our writing exams, here's a thought: lots of what you write now and what you have written few weeks ago can be added to the article with only a minor changes. I was always annoyed how such exams were 'wasted' after submitting them to the teacher, but now you can reuse that work to benefit wikipedia and fulfill part of our service learning. Isn't this a nifty idea?

PS. In an unrelated thought, I am wondering what would you think about shortening our Halloween class to about 5 p.m. and extending the next one (or few of them) a little bit to cover the material we lost?


Friday, October 26, 2007

Ten things you may not know about images on Wikipedia

Since one of the things our digital divide article on Wikipedia is missing are images (and graphs, and charts, and so on), I thought this will make an interesting reading: Ten things you may not know about images on Wikipedia


Friday, October 19, 2007

Wikipedia project update

There have been two new strange editors involved in editing the article; since they did not post anything on their userpages, nor on article's talk page, I have no idea if they are part of our little group. If you are them, please identify yourself on the user page - at the very least by stating that you are part of our "Digital Citzenship" course. Personally, I have no problem with telling people I am who I am - I am proud of my contributions - but of course I respect your desire to be anonymous (although note that prof. Shulman may have trouble recognizing the input of anonymous students ;p).

The editors in question:
* Babym1424 edited the article on 16 October
** good job on labeling your edits with the edit summary and minor edit; very good job on deciphering how to use citation template (personally I think it's too complex and I don't use it myself :))
* Boo2989 edited the article on 17 October
** good job on using the edit summary

On a side note, consider that Wikipedia is here to stay and you may find yourself editing it in the future for various reasons. Hence if selecting a nickname, are you sure you want a random combination of letters or numbers?

I am looking forward to more people joining this project; I have pruned the external links from spam and irrelevance, but as I wrote on discussion page, they may well be important links we should now add that are not there. There is still plenty of work to do!


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Wikipedia activity as part of our service learning

Per your suggestion, I raised the issue in our last class, and it met with quite positive reception from Prof. Shulman - he encouraged us to try this, and noted that time we dedicate to it will count toward our service learning. Thus I am going to illustrate what I had in mind below - feel free to ask questions, offer suggestions and critique - and of course, participate in the project :)

As we all know (I hope!), Wikipedia is the free encyclopedia whose content is created by volunteers. It is now in Top 10 most popular sites online, comes up in many Google searches and as such, understanding and even familiarity with the site are increasingly becoming a basic requirements for any 'digital citizen'. If we can improve the coverage and quality of Wikipedia's topics, we will succeed in several basic tenants of service learning:
* we will create content useful for others; hence benefiting the online community (and I don't mean only the Wikipedia community of editors, but the online community of all people using Internet, who increasingly rely on Wikipedia for being their primary source of information)
* we will become more familiar with Wikipedia ourselves, thus gaining some important skills and knowledge

I suggest we target the digital divide article - a core concept in our course, and certainly an important concept overall. Unfortunately, the article is in sad shape:
* as far as I can tell, based on our readings, it is hardly comprehensive - it doesn't mention many key arguments or concepts
* it lacks inline citations
* it doesn't follow Wikipedia Manual of Style
And this is just a tip of the iceberg of the problems this article suffers from.

How can we improve it? It's easy. You can learn how to edit Wikipedia - which is hardly more difficult than learning how to use a text editor - by spending a few minutes following the Wikipedia Tutorial. Next, create an account - it takes only few seconds - and add yourself to the list here. What next? Well, you can review the current article; list 'to do' tasks, discuss it on its talk page, or just be bold and start editing the main article.

I hope we will be able to cross two important milestones in the next few weeks:
* reach the status of a Good Article
* reach the status of a Featured Article

For now, I have done a few technical tasks, such as creation of the 'to do' list and submission for the peer review. I have also used a script to generate some suggestions for improvement - see the peer review. So, let's waste no more time and start editing!

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me - by email, Wikipedia message system, replies to the blog or via one of many instant messengers I use (see my Wikipedia user page for my contact info).

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Friday, October 05, 2007

The Economist debate on digital divide

I think this should be of interest to many of us: The Economist is hosting a moderated debate on, among other things, digital divide. I certainly intend to follow it, not only because it touches on the dd, but because it certainly seems like a very interesting exercise in online democratic discourse. I particularly wonder if policymakers could, in theory, benefit from such discussions, or even more, if such discussions could generate useful policies themselves.

PS. I plan to post details on Wikipedia project this weekend, so those of you interested in this form of online volunteering - stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On digital fluency: how some things stay the same

Inspired by a few comments today, I looked back through some of my old blogs for a digital fluency tidbit that is just as relevant now as it was two years ago. Yes, the web evolves quickly, but some tricks for making your life online easier haven't changed. So, if you have a few minutes, check out how to easily manage your files. A few times recently I was forced to use Windows Explorer and I was so annoyed at its inefficiency, that I added Total Commander to my pendrive. TE is to WE what Firefox is to Internet Exploder. One I calculated I save 12h a year by using Fire; I probably save more using TE. And people ask me why I have so much time... :)

Consider using SeaMonkey instead of Firefox if you don't use other dedicated email software. Another fluency tidbit is that html email service (i.e. accessing your email via browser) is very bad compared to software solutions. I find it hard to imagine how people can live without years of their emails (I have access to 99% of my emails since 1997, searchable), without autosort assigning my incoming mail into one of several folders (friends, family, work, etc.), or without good junk mail filter (although I think I need to look for some better solution, SeaMonkey build-in one still lets some through, to be honest).

Seriously: knowing the good software and teaching others about it is certainly part of lessening the digital divide. If one is teaching people to use inefficient software like IE or WE, one is doing them almost a disservice. Many of those folks will have little time or will to search for better softs themselves, and we owe it to them to teach them what is best.