Wikipedia Anti-Hate

August 26th, 2009, 10:31 pm PST by Greg

There has been a bunch of bad noise about Wikipedia on the tubes recently and it’s annoying me.

First, there was a study about Wikipedia growth slowing. Basically, the rate of new article creation has slowed and one-off editors are more likely to have their edits reverted.

Secondly, Wikipedia is adding a new level of editorial oversight for biographies of living people. This amounts to turning on flagged revisions for those articles: basically, non-logged-in users only see “flagged” edits that have been approved by “trusted editor” (i.e. not worth reverting).

Both of these caused a lot of consternation: Wikipedia is over the hill, Wikipedia is becoming elitist, etc. I made the mistake of reading slashdot comments on the second issue and regreted it.

Seriously? Can you look closely at the English Wikipedia and come to the conclusion that it’s dying?

Try clicking “random article” in Wikipedia a few times. Can you really say that the number of new articles shouldn’t be slowing down? Many of the articles are pretty dicey on the notability criteria. There is simply a finite number of “notable” topics that need to be written about: I’d say that English Wikipedia is closing in on that number. There will always be gaps, but they’re getting hard to find.

I have done a moderate amount of Wikipedia editing: about 200 edits across Wikimedia sites. In looking at the history of pages, I’ve never seen an edit that has been unjustly reverted. (Although I do tend to stay away from controversial pages.) Most of the reversions I have seen are of the quality “my high school principal is teh gay”. Again, I’m sure there are problems and edit wars, but they are definitely not the majority.

As for “flagged revisions”, I think it’s a great solution to the vandalism problem. Logged in users and editors will always see the most recent revisions, only anonymous viewers will see the “flagged” versions. The criteria for flagging seems to be “not worth reverting”, so that’s pretty minimal. I’d feel better if there was a better definition of “trusted editor” who can flag a revision, but assuming there is a sufficient set of people doing the flagging, it should work well.

So why the hate? My theory is that all of these people have written long articles about their totally awesome band, but had the page deleted for not being notable. Or maybe their high school principal really is teh gay, and they feel they are being censored.

DDP Kayaking

August 17th, 2009, 12:40 pm PST by Greg

A while ago, Ted and I had the brainwave to take some of the DDP kids kayaking. (If you don’t know what DDP is, just think “Chinese exchange students” and you’ll be close enough to follow along.)

So yesterday, we showed up at Rocky Point with something like 28 students, approximately 27 of whom had just seen a kayak for the first time that day, and certainly never been in one. Try to picture me, Ted, and two guys from the kayak rental place trying to quickly explain “hold the paddle like this; that end is the front; sit in it; go!”

I re-learned that Chinese people don’t have a keenly developed sense of “let’s get together and do this activity as a group.” This, along with the baseline inability to control a kayak on your first time out, meant that getting the group to all head in one direction to get somewhere was hopeless.

More than anything, I wish I could get time-lapse video of the bay we were in for those two hours. It would have looked like Brownian motion. As a group, I think we went maybe 500 metres in the whole time. Ted and I each paddled miles in a futile effort to sheepdog the group.

There were two students who tipped out of their kayaks during the day, which is probably pretty good all things considered. It’s a good thing Ted was there: I have never done a deep water kayak rescue. (But I could do a deep water canoe-over-canoe rescue with my eyes closed.) It turns out the principles are the same: empty the boat, bring it alongside you for stability, and get the person to kick-and-pull their way up out of the water.

For the second rescue, I was alongside Ted. (My kayak, then Ted’s, then the empty one, and the student in the water on the far side.) The kick-and-pull out of the water wasn’t going so well. (It takes either a strong swimmer or a lot of upper-body strength.)

I learned everything I know about patience from my father. So, while the student was kicking, I grabbed him by the life jacket, hauled him up (hard enough that he made a little squawking noise), and deposited him face down into Ted’s lap. Hey, the goal was to get him out of the water, and I achieved the goal, right? And, once he found himself laying across Ted’s lap, he was pretty quick to hop back into his kayak too, so it was efficient all-around.

I hope the students had a good time: I suspect they would have told me they did no matter what. I was in the water in a small boat, so I had a blast.

Edit: It should be pointed out that I wasn’t aiming for Ted’s lap; that’s just how it played out. Overall the day was a lot of fun, and I’d do it again next weekend if everybody else wanted to go too.

Ontario 2009 Day 1

August 2nd, 2009, 5:10 pm PST by Kat

We’re in Toledo visiting Greg’s parents. I love it here. The air is clean, the view is beautiful, and there’s always fun things to do and family and friends to visit. We’re pretty tired as we red-eyed here, but we should be time shifted by tomorrow. Here’s the view from Greg’s bedroom window. Pretty, eh?