Correct Wikipedia editing

July 10th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Fox at Stuff reports:

Justice Minister Judith Collins’ office has become embroiled in a Wikipedia war with ministry critic Roger Brooking.

Brooking is an outspoken critic of Collins and the Justice Ministry and was a prolific Wikipedia editor – now banned – under the username Offender9000.

Writing on his blog at the weekend Brooking said his entries had been slashed from lengthy articles to stubs of little more than a few hundred words.

He voiced concerns that Collins or her staff were behind the edits though admitted to Fairfax Media he had no proof.

This reminds me of the time when I worked in the PMs Office and a fervent Alliance activist publicly accused me of having used my Internet black box over-ride to block her from accessing the Internet. The reality was that Ihug just had an outage (I know as I was on the same ISP!).

In this case if Brooking has been banned from editing Wikipedia, it will be because he consistently broke the rules. It is quite hard to get banned. You have to be quite irrational, or consistently doing biased edits. Some people think Wikipedia is a forum for them to make people look bad. It isn’t.

A spokesperson for Collins admits to making minor changes but said they were up-front about who they were – claims backed up by Wikipedia logs and supported by a Wikipedia editor.

Comments from Collins’ office appear in the Wikipedia logs.

“I am Judith’s press secretary. Happy to help out by providing a more recent photo for use. As I have a clear [conflict of interest] … I won’t be editing content on the page but I may suggest changes which you can choose to take up or not and can provide further background material etc as requested,” the press secretary wrote in February.

That is exactly the way to do it. Be up front on who you are, and propose changes on the talk page, rather than make edits directly.

Brooking pointed to pages he had edited, including articles on legal aid, the police, corrections, Independent Police Conduct Authority and the Government Communications Security Bureau – which had been slashed.

“I thought New Zealanders had freedom of speech – according to the Bill of Rights we do. But Judith Collins and Chris Burns don’t seem to think so,” he wrote.

Speaking to Fairfax, Brooking admitted he had no proof but was concerned about the changes and the fact he had been banned from editing Wikipedia.

While Brooking bemoaned the changes he was often forced to defend his own entries and changes against accusations of bias by other editors.

Freedom of speech doesn’t mean you can ignore Wikipedia’s rules. Mr Brooking is free to set up his own websites where he can say what he likes about Judith Collins. But he can’t pollute Wikipedia with his edits if they don’t comply.

A Wikipedia editor with the username Gadfium told Fairfax Media via email that Collins’ office had been open about its contributions though they were told they should refrain from making further changes.

“They declared their conflict of interest and only edited the Judith Collins article to supply a requested photo,” the editor said.

The removal of a comment from an article about David Bain which it considered defamatory to Collins was “understandable” and the staff did not try to reimpose the changes when they were reinserted but “began a civil discussion at an appropriate page”.

I love it when an article quotes someone by their online alias. Gadfium is a long-standing and well known editor of Wikipedia. He makes the point again that the best practice is to discuss potentially controversial edits on the talk pages, not just have an edit war.

Gadfium said Brooking was blocked from editing because of concerns about bias and because he was also operating anonymous accounts, something which is not allowed.

When you start setting up anonymous accounts so you can say nasty things about someone on Wikipedia, you need to relax and get a life.

There is an interesting contrast between the Stuff article on this issue, and the NZ Herald article. The Stuff article includes the claims by Brooking, but includes an interview with a Wikipedia editor, goes into lengthy detail of what Collins’ office did do, and how they followed correct process. It also highlights how Brooking has been banned, and why. I think it is very well balanced.

By contrast the Herald article gives a very different impression. It doesn’t provide key details (which are important to those who know this stuff) such as the staff identified themselves on the talk page, and explicitly said they don’t intend to do edits etc.  I’m not having a go at the Herald article but I urge peopel to read both articles and reflect the entirely different impressions they leave. It shows how decisions on what to include and highlight can dramatically change the impression you get from an article.


January 18th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Hollywood may have bitten off more than they can chew.

The studios got their lackeys in Congress to put forward a bill called SOPA – Stop Online Piracy Act.

Rather than target those actually infringing on copyright – it targets anyone who links to sites that allegedly infringe – including search engines such as Google. It basically wants Google and others to act as filters on behalf of Hollywood – a law China could be proud of.

The ramifications are massive. Someone might post a comment on Kiwiblog mentioning the name of a site which tells you where some good torrent sites are. Bang – Kiwiblog is out of the search engines.

But it gets worse than that. Under SOPA, ISPs (US ones anyway) could be forced to block access to sites. Just like in Syria and Libya. A summary of views against from Wikipedia:

On TIME‘s Techland blog, Jerry Brito wrote, “Imagine if the U.K. created a blacklist of American newspapers that its courts found violated celebrities’ privacy? Or what if France blocked American sites it believed contained hate speech?”[21] Similarly, the Center for Democracy and Technology warned, “If SOPA and PIPA are enacted, the US government must be prepared for other governments to follow suit, in service to whatever social policies they believe are important—whether restricting hate speech, insults to public officials, or political dissent.”[22]

Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard University professor of constitutional law, released an open letter on the web stating that SOPA would “undermine the openness and free exchange of information at the heart of the Internet. And it would violate the First Amendment.”

My views are simple. No Government should censor the Internet. If people access illegal material on the Internet then they should be held liable in a court for that. If people commit crimes on the Internet, then they should be arrested for that. And yes if people infringe copyright on the Internet, they should be liable under the law. But to have laws giving the power to require all ISPs in a country to block particular sites is a practice that should remain the norm in China, not the US and definitely not NZ.

Amusingly the MPAA has actually cited China in their advocacy, with the MPAA Chairman having said that as Google has figured out how to block sites when China requests it, it can’t be that big an issue.

Anyway the backlash has begun and could be huge. Wikipedia is closing down later today for 24 hours as part of a black out protest. I can just imagine the millions of pissed off Americans who will be e-mailing their complaints into Congress.

Think if Google did the same? Maybe even for just three hours the search engines all turned off and displayed a protest page?

The MPAA and RIAA are used to being the biggest players in the game. I think they are about to find out they’re not.

A red worm

November 22nd, 2011 at 5:04 pm by David Farrar

A friend e-mailed me this link n Wikipedia.

Eisenia fetida (older spelling: foetida), known under various common names such as redworm, brandling worm, tiger worm and red wiggler worm, red californian earth worm, is a species of earthworm adapted to decaying organic material. These worms thrive in rotting vegetation, compost, and manure; they are epigeal. They are rarely found in soil, instead preferring conditions that are inimical to some other worms. In this trait they resemble the Lumbricus rubellus.

When roughly handled, an eisenia fetida exudes a pungent liquid, thus the specific name foetida meaning foul-smelling. This is presumably an antipredator adaptation.

Seems appropriate – a red wiggler worm.

Wikipedia editing

February 21st, 2010 at 11:49 am by David Farrar

The HoS reports:

Auckland Museum’s head of public relations has written a glowing Wikipedia entry for his under-fire boss during business hours.

Russell Briggs omitted the controversy that has plagued Dr Vanda Vitali’s tenure as director of Auckland Museum.

His entry appears to breach Wikipedia’s guidelines, which state that entries should be unbiased and balanced.

I’m quoted in the article, and said to the reporter that Wikipedia is meant to be a neutral point of view, and it is hard to achieve that if you are writing about your boss!

Having said that, creating a page without criticism for your boss, is not as big a “sin” as editing a page to remove such criticism, and I predicted that one the article appeared, other Wikipedians would edit it, so it is a more balanced article.

And indeed, if you go to her article now, it has been edited several times, and is now much more balanced.

Google supports Wikipedia

February 18th, 2010 at 1:07 pm by David Farrar

Rather pleased to read that Google has donated US2 million to Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is not great for current controversial issues (such as climate change or George W Bush) but I find it invaluable in many many other areas. I use it many times a day

Editing Wikipedia

June 6th, 2009 at 10:25 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A worker in an MP’s office has been banned from Wikipedia the volunteer web encyclopedia for trying to censor information about his boss.

The website’s entry for Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, National MP for Maungakiekie, was repeatedly tampered with on Thursday morning.

Wikipedia users identified the computer as being from Parliament by its IP address and banned the user for a week for the “conflict of interest” and lack of explanation for the changes.

Mr Lotu-Iiga yesterday denied editing the entry himself, saying a member of his staff had done it. But he defended the changes, which related to his dual role as an MP and Auckland city councillor. …

Mr Lotu-Iiga said he had not read the page until contacted by The Dominion Post yesterday, but downplayed it as “not a biggie for me”.

“I have guys in my office who look after PR and where I am in the media, and one of them noticed that someone was tampering with it.”

After reading the piece, he said some of it was inaccurate because he regularly attended council meetings. “I’m happy to take some criticism, but I think the wording is a bit strong. Somebody from my office thought it was appropriate to take it down.”

Okay it looks like some staffers need a tutorial on how to edit Wikipedia. Here are my guidelines for editing a political page:

  1. Use the discuss page for that page you wish to edit. State why you want to make the change.
  2. So for example in this instance, the staffer should have said “I propose to delete the sentence that criticises the Council attendance record as the Herald has reported it is 86%, and higher than many others”
  3. Then if after a couple of days if no one has objected,make the edit, and refer to the discussion page in your one line summary of the edit
  4. If people do object to deleting the reference, then negotiate on the discuss page a compromise that people can live with – such as maintain the criticism, but also include the rebuttal.
  5. You don’t have to, but personally I would always identify yourself making the edit,so no-one can suggest you are being underhand
  6. If you make an edit, and someone reverses it, don’t just make it again. Find out why someone is reversing it, and discuss it with them. Do not get into an edit war.
  7. Always remember Wikipedia is meant to be a neutral point of view.

If you follow the above advice, you will avoid getting banned, and avoid embarrassing your boss.

Death of Encarta

April 7th, 2009 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

An article in the NZ Herald about how MS Encarta basically killed off the Encycloped Britannica, and how Wikipedia has now killed off Encarta.

I liked this part at the end:

Wikipedia’s ability to respond instantly to developments is just one of the reasons it has transformed the world of reference works.

Another is its sheer scale.

I’ve just checked the main page and it is reporting that the English version currently has 2,822,233 articles.

It is now the place I go to check out any new TV series or film. And if you missed an episode – also there. Plus all the traditional articles.

Yet another is its linguistic diversity – 875,000 articles in German, 774,000 in French, 568,000 in Chinese, 585,000 in Polish etc.

There is no way a conventional, centrally edited, commercially financed operation could match this.

There are now 25 different language Wikipedias that have over 100,000 articles each.

I’m tired of listening to brain-dead dinner-party complaints about how “inaccurate” Wikipedia is.

I’m bored to death by endless accounts of slurs or libels suffered by a few famous individuals at the hands of Wikipedia vandals.

And if anyone ever claims again that the entries in Wikipedia are written by clueless amateurs, I will hit them with a list of experts who curate material in their specialisms. And remind them of Professor Peter Murray-Rust’s comment to a conference in Oxford: “The bit of Wikipedia that I wrote is correct.”

Of course Wikipedia has flaws, show me something that doesn’t.

Of course it suffers from vandalism and nutters who contribute stuff to it.

But instead of complaining about errors, academics ought to be in there fixing them.

Wikipedia is one of the greatest inventions we have. Isn’t it time we accepted it? Microsoft has.

It has opened knowledge up to the masses. No more Google searches on a topic as you search dozens of hits. My first port of call is always Wikipedia now.

Wikipedia editing

September 10th, 2008 at 7:22 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald has a story on edits done to Wikipedia by Aaron Bhatnagar, highlighted a few days ago by Russell Brown.

Auckland City councillor Aaron Bhatnagar has been caught doctoring the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to paint his opponents in a bad light at last year’s local body elections.

Using the alias of Barzini _ a power-hungry psychopath from Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather _ Mr Bhatnagar created entries for his Action Hobson opponents in the Hobson ward and made unflattering changes to the entry for Mayor Dick Hubbard.

After winning a council seat and watching Action Hobson councillors Christine Caughey and Richard Simpson go down to a C&R rout in Hobson, Mr Bhatnagar tried to remove the Wikipedia entries for his opponents at 3am the following morning.

An unrepentant Mr Bhatnagar yesterday admitted setting up and editing entries against his opponents on Wikipedia, but claimed everything he said was true, such as broken promises on rates. He said Wikipedia was self-regulating and a community where everyone could have a say. There were mechanisms to delete or rewrite entries. …

Mr Brown yesterday said anyone could edit an entry in Wikipedia, but the main barrier was ethical. There was a Wikipedia rule that stated it should not be used as a soapbox. “I think his behaviour is incredibly inappropriate. It was really the wrong thing to do,” Mr Brown said.

I agree that the editing was inappropriate. It wasn’t vandalism (this is vandalism), but it is inadvisable to make questionable changes to topics you have a vested interest in.

This isn’t an absolute. I’ve made some changes to articles on National and the 2005 funding controversy. But when they are political topics, I try and be extra careful that the edits are neutral point of view. Also I try to avoid edit wars by sometimes using the Talk page on a topic to propose a change. For example the debate over whether Adam Hamilton or George Forbes was the first Leader of the National Party (I say Hamilton, not Forbes).

UPDATE: A commenter has pointed to some Wiki vandalism done by IP address and, where the author signed a comment on a talk page as philu. The Phil U who posts here has told me it was not him, he has never edited Wikipedia. He has also never commented here from those IP address which are on the Telecom network, and Phil is on Woosh. So I take his word it was not him, and the person who did the edits either signed his name falsely or maybe has the same first name and initial.

Caughey calls for Blog and Wikipedia regulation

August 14th, 2008 at 5:23 pm by David Farrar

Christine Caughey has just been appointed by Labour to their new Transport Board. She got thrown off the Auckland City Council last year, after serving one term. It seems she is not too happy about this, judging by her submission to the Justuce & Electoral Committee.

Advertising by way of blogging, use of Wikipedia or similar, are two examples where abuse may occur. Wikipedia does not appear to have adequate structures in place to monitor and control abuse of the system.

Regulation to control the type of use of the internet for political/campaigning purposes should be put in place …

Caughey also supports extending the EFA to local bodies, so there are restrictions on paid advocacy for all of local body election year.

Not content with regulating blogs, Wikipedia and spending, she also advocates regulating monitoring and assessing the media.

Aaron Bhatnagar has fun dissecting her points one at a time.

How did such a person get elected in the first place, and why in God’s name has Labour appointed someone who wants to regulate Wikipedia to a powerful transport funding board?


June 14th, 2008 at 7:45 pm by David Farrar

Try out this web page where you can see on a map where anonymous edits to Wikipdia are being made from, and what page they are editing.

I suspect one can end up spending a lot of time on it!

Help Wikipedia with MPs photos

May 28th, 2008 at 10:06 am by David Farrar

Simon Lyall, a NZ Wikipedia user, is working with others to improve NZ related articles.

One of their problems is they have very few photos of MPs, former and current. They don’t even have photos of John Key, Peter Dunne and Rodney Hide.

You see they need photos where the copyright holder will release them to Wikipedia under a license that can be used by Wikipedia and other projects. This includes permission for republication, distribution, derivative works and commercial use.

If any parliamentary people have photos they can release, can they contact Simon at simon at

But the photos don’t have to be from the MPs themselves. Anyone who has taken a photo of an MP, owns the copyright and can licence it to Wikipedia.

For that matter, maybe a community minded newspaper could help out. The major dailies (or NZPA) must have stock photos they have taken of most MPs. Now sure media make money from licensing photos, but no one is ever going to want to pay for a head and shoulders photo of an MP, so why not help Wikipedia out (because I bet you all use it often) and see if you have photos they can use. Maybe not even current MPs, but ones of former MPs are also sought.

Studying Wikipedia

May 27th, 2008 at 11:12 am by David Farrar

Interesting to note that NSW school students next year will be able to take a course in studying Wikipedia.

Despite all its flaws, Wikipedia continues to go from strength to strength. It has a massively high Google page rank, is one of the most visited sites in the world, and blogs almost universally link to it when talking about a particular issue or topic which people may want more information on.

More on Wiki edits

February 29th, 2008 at 8:47 am by David Farrar

An NZPA story in the NZ Herald has quotes from Russell Brown and Cameron Slater (aka media whore padawan) on the Parliamentary edits to Wikipedia.

As I said yesterday, it is desirable for edits to be done under a user name rather than an IP address if there are issues of potential conflicts of interest involved. I make very very few edits (and none have ever been reversed I think) but always under my name.

Blog Bits

February 28th, 2008 at 9:35 am by David Farrar

Cactus Kate celebrates the Hong Kong Government giving out NZ5.5b of tax cuts because they took in too much tax.  And that is on top of the fact the top marginal tax rate is 17%.

Craig Foss is outraged over the sacking of the democratically elected Hawkes’ Bay District Health Board after just 72 days in office.

Liberty Scott has the top ten reasons why lefties should hate Castro.

Russell Brown covers the issue of some favourable parliamentary edits in Wikipedia to National MP’s pages. I agree with his conclusion that if you do more than one or two minor edits you should register a profile rather than just do it from your IP address.

A friend gave me an article in New Scientist a couple of weeks ago, about how political persuasion may have a genetic basis.  They found identical twins has more similar political views than fraternal twins, which is quite fascinating.  I had been planning to blog it, but Kiwiblogblog have covered it with links to an extract of the original research.

Daily Tech finds that a 12 month drop in world temperatures has wiped out a century of warming.  From what I can tell this doesn’t mean that human activity is not contributing to warming, just that other factors such as solar activity still have far more influence. Comments from those more up to date with the science here are welcome.

Tim Selwyn at Tumeke has a post on Oliver Driver’s interview with Helen Clark’ and how she seemed unsure how to handle questions criticising her performance not from a right wing perspective but from the left. He also compares how Helen Clark was unable to come up with a single nice thing to say about John Ke, while Key had no problem supplying an admirable quality of Clark’s the previous week. If someone can get the Alt TV interview onto You Tube I’ll link to it.