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Flog of the Prokonsul

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On librarians and... (suprise) Wikipedia

I don't think many will be suprised when I say that the most interesting chapter in Courtney's book was for me the chapter on Wikis by Boeninger.

Interestingly, Boeninger doesn't focus on Wikipedia - something I would like to address here.

Librarians 2.0 should certainly be familiar with Wikipedia. It is, after all, the largest encyclopedia, coming up top in most Google searchers, and something their patrons will often turn to for information. They need to know whether its reliable or not; how to efficiently research on it; and also - how to tie Wikipedia with their profession, communities and individual libraries.

The librarian at Great Meadows Middle School in New Jersey has blocked access to Wikipedia from computer; she has put up signs all over the library that declare "Just say no to Wikipedia" (read news story here). Yet I believe that we should heed historian Roy Rosenberg who wrote that in the end - it is just an encyclopedia (read his article here). You should not end your research with one - and you should never trust one source to be perfect - but to expect people not to use the mostly correct, free and user friendly resource is akin telling people that printed press allows dissemination of errors and they should only trust hand written manuscripts. Wikipedia is as correct as Britannica (read Nature's study here), and should be no more banned than it.

Of course, it is important to know how to use those tools widely. Librarians should be aware that Wikipedia has has useful guides - ex. Researching with Wikipedia or project such as Wikipedia:WikiProject Librarians. I would expect librarians 2.0 to have a Wikipedia account, and contribute to Wikipedia articles on individual books (ex. Wikinomics), their libraries (ex. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh) - or concepts related to their job (ex. Library catalog). With such tool as Catalog 2.0, linking books in library catalogue to their Wikipedia's entries, blog reviews and such, and librarians monitoring the quality of that content - helped by the vast masses of good-willed amateurs - I am looking forward to library 2.0 experience.

Further reading:

Chad F. Boeninger, The Wonderful World of Wikis: Application for Librarise, in Nancy Courtney (ed.), Library 2.0 and beyond.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wikipedia fundraiser and digital divide

Recommended reading:

Turning the Digital Divide Into Digital Dividends

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Digital divide article on Wikipedia - what we need to do

Origin of the term, current usage, digital divide, e-democracy and e-governance, and criticism are acceptable - although they could benefit from expansion.

Overcoming the digital divide and global digital divide sections have some references, but need more, and need rewriting and expansion - they are very rough drafts.

Digital divide in education has not a single reference.

National interest and social benefit and challenges and social detriments sections are missing references, and besides, they are lists that could as well be somebody's original research, which has no place on Wikipedia. Unless they can be referenced to a single publication, they need to be broken and incorporated into existing sections.

All things considered, the article has made considerable progress since we begun working on it, but it still needs more work before it can be considered for a Good Article review. So don't hesitate to spend an hour of two of your service learning in improving this article. We can create an informative page that will benefit the world - and learn how wikis and Wikipedia operate. Tantek Celik, Technocrati's Chief Technologist, said recently that in five years "knowledge of wikis will be a required job skill". Treat this as an opportunity, not as an assignment. This is, after all, a big part of what service learning is about.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Digital divide: Zambia

Recently one of the members of Wikimedia Foundation board travelled to Zambia. I found a part of an interview with her, where she mentions her visit to a Zambian village, very interesting; and her photos - even more so.

If your school is a hut, and your dreams are a bicycle or a camera, you really are on the other side of the divide...


Friday, November 16, 2007

Wikipedia digital divide project update

Since my last update was on Nov 6, time for another one. Here's what happening with the digital divide article on Wikipedia:
* on Nov 8, an anonymous editor (IP traced to London) did a minor edit removing a superflous word. It's a good example of a very common type of contribution - minor style/grammar fixes. You don't have to do much work to edit Wikipedia - if you see a single tiny error, correcting it is quite easy and very helpful, too! Interestingly, the minor edits can be controversial too - although it is not vandalism, it was reverted few days later by Tedickey with the edit summary "rm spurious change" (the anon editor failed to provide his edit summary)
* on November 12 vandalism by IP traced to Osaka, Japan and on November 13 vandalism from IP (IU8-9-10 Regional Wan Consortium in Smethport, Pennsylvania) occurred and where promptly reverted by Technobadger.
* on November 14 an anonymous editor (from Santa Clara, California) added a paragraph on cooperation between US and Egypt (accidentally, one of biggest recipients of US foreign aid) aimed at reducing digital divide in Egypt
* Nov 15 -vandalism from Belfast, Northern Ireland, reverted by Technobadger and from New Jersey Higher Education Network reverted by a bot (piece of semi-automatic software designed to spot and revert obvious vandalism)
* Nov 16 - a minor edit by user Corky842 creating an internal link to a notable term
* Nov 17 - more vandalism reverted by a bot and a few edits by me

PS. Also, remember that our project is not limited to digital divide; if you want to contribute to other articles (such as on service learning) - go right ahead!


Monday, November 12, 2007

On free culture, copyright and ebooks

Last time in class I mentioned how free ebooks are changing the traditional way printed media are distributed. On one level, it's strange. Why would you want to give away your works for free?

The answer is: to avoid obscurity. To turn the 'free riders' into viral marketers. And to attract people to other stuff you don't give away for free. Check out Baen's Books publishing strategy or the rationale for why Cory Doctorow, a popular sci-fi writer, is giving away his books for free. Finally, there is also a great series of essays by another sci-fi writer, a driving force behind Bean's Books strategy, Eric Flint - Salvos Against Big Brother.

Another thing worth reading are the great 19th century speeches by Macaulay on copyright law.

All things considered, I believe that the war between proprietary and free culture is one of the most important struggles of today. If we lose it, the world of tomorrow will be little better than the totalitarian world of Soviet or Nazi victories. If you think I am exaggerating... watch Blade Runner. Or read a Shadowrun novel. Yes, it's fiction. Scary fiction. Do you want our future to look like that?


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Fourth time the charm & wiki update

As I hoped, the fourth scheduled meeting with the ACLA people actually took place. We had a really pleasant conversation - they are quite interested in increasing their tech-savviness, which is not small to start with. We agreed that I will hold 2 or more workshops for librarians about wikis and Wikipedia; the first one will take place early December, the second one around January-February (so it is outside the class commitment but as those who know me I certainly don't mind talking about wikis... :>).

That actually reminds me - if any of you think the people you work with may be interested in a workshop/discussion on wikis and Wikipedia, don't hesitate to let me know.

As for the digital divide, I thought I'd update you on the recent activity in the article since our FastTrack meeting. I am skipping vandalism, its reverting or bot technical edits.
* on 28 October a new user - Technobadger - appeared and carried out a big edit. The user had edited Wikipedia before so I don't think he is one of us, unfortunately.
* on 1 November an anonymous user (one who had not created an account) has added a new section to the article ("Challenges and social detrements"); unfortunatly it is unreferenced. IP has been traced to Reston, Virginia, which is close enough for me to believe it may be somebody from our course. Thanks for contributions, and consider those two hints: 1) register 2) cite your sources.
* a few minor edits traced to University of Michigan occurred on November 2
* on November 3 a new user, Jaded.snowflake, has made his or her first and only edit (so far) to Wikipedia, adding a sentence that "The digital divide network, is the internet's largest community for citizens working to bridge the digital divide."
* on November 4 Technobadger carried out several other relatively minor edits
* on November 5 registered user Grosscha carried out several other minor edits. That user hails from Michigan Univerisity, which likely makes the anon November 2 edits his.
* finally, on November 6 Technobadger returns with a single minor fix

On the other note - tying this with Lessig's discussion about privacy - consider that while non-registered users are identified by their IP and can thus be traced to their point of origin (sometimes, IP tracing is always a gamble), registered users have their IP hidden and only few selected administrators (me not being one of them) can see them. Personally I wish this would not be so - seeing editors location would allow to determine bias and catch some users who 'cheat' by having multiplie accounts (for example, vote stacking; we call this "sock puppeting" on Wiki). But the majority is opposed to this, apparently valuing privacy over information. Similarly, there is no requirement to provide any - or true - information about oneself on your Wikipedia user page (which everybody gets after registering). Considering Wikipedia's Conflict of Interest policy, and events such as Essjay controversy and the revelations of WikiScanner, I wonder - would you agree or disagree with motions that
1) all Wikipedia's editors should have publicly visible IP address and
2) all Wikipedia's editors should provide a rough biography (at least age, nationality, education and employment) on their user page?

PS. Do you know Wikipedia is having a fundraiser? LOL.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

ACLA meeting saga

So I am seeting in the Kiva Han, waitingfor the ACLA person I am supposed to be meeting right now. Checking my mail. See a mail from the person I am supposed to be meeting - apparently they did a mistake and they scheduled it for Friday, not Thursday.

Oh well. I guess 4th time the charm, right? :)