Six year olds

As most people exposed to children know, six years of age is a difficult time. You never know what a six year old will do.

Congratulations, then, to Dave Rogers on his weblog’s 6th birthday. May you have as much fun with your six year old, as others do with theirs.


Web 2.0

Jeneane Sessum is writing on Web 2.0 stuff. To her I say Blog! Oh, geez that felt so good! But I digress.

Jeneane writes about Web 1.0 and 2.0 terminology and says you can’t have consensus on the web. That’s an excellent point. We had agreement about the web. We agreed on the tech, the naming schema, the hardware, the protocols, and the languages–but that’s primarily because a couple of big players Pushed Their Weight Around at Strategic Times. But web and consensus–would this be the same consensus that rules at the Wikipedia? There is none. When there is, you’ll know because the Wikipedia will look like one great big Power Point presentation. Same with the web, only much bigger.

As for Web 2.0, I don’t care much now about what people use. After recent events including the disappointment about the SxSW panel, I lost a lot of my pugnaciousness when it comes to tilting at windmills. (More on this, later, in a separate post.)

No, the only thing I have against Web 2.0 is some of your crappy Web 2.0 code is getting mixed up in my web page, and I want you to stop. This all isn’t a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup: I’m not peanut butter, and your misuse, abuse, and over use of technology just cuz is not chocolate; these do not work great together. Pretend for a moment that you want people to use your code, and for goodness sake, beta is not a permanent state: release something!

Speaking of releasing, Jeneane also writes about being able to Shuffle our bits about; by this she means being able to grab her Blogger entries and move them elsewhere, or as Doc Searls mentions, being able to upload photos to many places. (Question: why?)

When Jeneane had asked my opinion of BubbleShare, I replied that a drawback I saw to the service is it doesn’t have an API. Without an API, tools can’t interface to it, photos can’t be moved from other services, and we can’t move photos from outside this service. I would never add or upload to a centralized service that doesn’t give me an out.

But to focus: this is about Web 2.0. This is about a vote on not using this term anymore–which is about the most silly ass thing I’ve heard all month, even if the purpose for the vote is introducing yet another piece of ‘code’ to clutter our pages. We need our terms, Stowe–if we don’t have our terms, how will we separate the cool kids from the hacks with money? So, if Web 2.0 is now contaminated with all the ‘built to flip’ nonsense about, what about another name?

What about Web2.0? The Web, squared. Or even Web3.14159265–the Web, raised to the power of Pi? Maybe Web0, for Web, Sub-Zero. Too much like a superhero? Wait, don’t go! I have a million names! There’s…


But at least we can validate the Web 2.0 with the Web 2.0 Validator. Be brave, add your own rules. After all, this is Web 2.0–the read/write web.

Thanks to Zo for the link.

Social Media

The pedia me

There were a lot of good comments in the sock puppet post, and I’m going to just pull out bits without giving proper credit, because I’m a bit tired today, and actually not feeling all that great.

I am in the Wikipedia now. Does this make me an insider who is an outsider? Or an outsider who somehow sneaked in? I appreciate those who spoke up for me, and those who didn’t. The experience was illuminating. I don’t plan on following changes to the page frequently–watched pot and all–but I’ll also not hesitate to edit information in error, or add links to new material. This purist, “I never touch the stuff” is for wankers.

Oh, I don’t mean to be insulting to those with such high moral standards. But I’m not sure who invented this ‘rule’ of not editing your own entry, other than it, like most of the guidelines at ‘Pedia are usually preceded with “Jimbo says”. If you see an error in any page, shouldn’t you correct it? If it’s your page, dropping a note in discussion hinting that it would be rather nice to see so and so corrected strikes me as overly coy, and I don’t have much patience for coy.

The guidelines state that the Wikipedia reflects a neutral POV (point of view), but there is no neutral point of view. History is nothing if not colorful; forming, gradually, when each person daubs about with their own favorite hue. Wikipedia will either eventually end up the world’s largest list of bullets and be very, very accurate and very, very dull; or it will continue as it is: a mix of views, fact, and fiction; some cleverly written, some not.

As for the rest–the Jimbo says, Jimbo says, Jimbo says… I’m too old to be a follower, and too young to be led. I appreciate this toy, this weed, this wonder that Jimbo has loaned us; but hey, there you go: I can’t take anything seriously that starts with Jimbo says…

(Why ‘loaned’? Jimbo Wales position in the Wikipedia Board of Directors is not open for vote by members of Wikipedia. Ultimately he and two other non-elected members of the Board control the destiny of Wikipedia. As such, we can never consider Wikipedia anything more than a loan to the public.)

What interests me the most, though, is the interpretation of the individual editors about these ‘rules’ and guidelines. For instance, in the voting (excuse me, discussion page), my bonafides were established by the fact that I am an author with an audience of over 5,000 people. What validated this, though, is that O’Reilly is a publisher of several of my books; O’Reilly is, from what I could see in the discussion, a publisher that has already gone through some validation process, and therefore their validation added weight to my own validation, by association.

However, there was disagreement about my worth because I’m a writer of technology books–comparable to a person who writes toaster manuals. But if a toaster manual writer is successful, and with a high enough audience, does this preclude them getting an entry?

Regardless, I also found out during this process that entries for death row inmates invariably get accepted. If I get too much the big head, I can remind myself of this fact.

As for the openness of the Wikipedia, well, as we found there’s open and then there’s open. Is a hierarchy forming in the management of the Wikipedia? Yes. Does this preclude the occasional moment of rebellion? No.

Humility was also mentioned in the sock puppet comments, and that did catch my attention. It’s not that some people are pushing back at Wikipedia because of what it is, but what’s being said about it. We hail each new innovation as if we’re re-inventing the printing press. As mentioned, the concepts behind Wikipedia are not new–it is the execution that is unique, and that helped along by enough money to fund storage until the beastie took off.

I think, though, it would be wonderful to see more humility around our little efforts, but this is not a humble world. No, there is no such thing as a humble Wikipedia editor; nor, to be honest, a humble weblogger.

The truly humble person is a selfish git who would not dream of sharing. Luckily, we’re all less than perfectly humble, and perfectly willing to share. (Though some of us are persist in holding on to the ragged remnants of humility and will only share grudgingly, and with many caveats.)

I digress (I do this frequently in today’s writings). I did enjoy the discussion about deleting the page. I have a lowering feeling that the page, itself, will not end up half so interesting as the discussion about deleting it was. As such, I must link to the AfD — if only to add character to a page that sounds very factual, and, as a consequence, somewhat dull.

What else can I say about the Wikipedia page? No matter the facts listed there, it will never say as much about me as this weblog. If you ask me if all I write here is the truth, I’ll say, “Yes”. If you ask me if it’s all a lie, I’ll say “Yes”. However, I promise not to play such games at the Wikipedia.

Oh, but I must add the entry about being a masseuse in Salt Lake City…


Choice of the day

I can either spend the afternoon working on another Wikipedia article, or I can enjoy the 50 degree sunny weather and the fact that I have my car today and get out of the house and maybe even take some pictures.

Ah, geez. Don’t you hate it when you have to make tough choices?

Social Media

Yo! Sockpuppets!

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

There is considerably more organization to Wikipedia than meets the eye. For instance, not all user accounts are treated equally, and specific types of users can be banned from Wikipedia access. One such type of user is known as a sock puppet or, more typically, sockpuppet.

A sockpuppet is a Wikipedia contributor who writes under multiple accounts for nefarious purposes. I discovered the concept of ’sockpuppet’, when a Wikipedia editor decided to investigate those responding to the AFD (Articles For Deletion) page associated with my entry.

According to the editor, Samw:

I took the liberty of commenting on possible sockpuppets on this AFD and IMHO they are all real users: or someone is patiently taking months to build up sockpuppet accounts. I don’t know who Shelley Powers is but she obviously influences “lurkers” on Wikipedia. Shelley, well done!

Contrary to popular assumption, there are levels of trust attached to Wikipedia contributors. True, anyone can edit; but the value of your edit is proportional to your previous contributions. In the case of those who voted to ‘Keep’ my entry, and based on a history of previous contributions, Samw decided that the respondents were ‘real’ and therefore ‘valid’. However, he judged previous contributions to be sparse by Wikipedia standards, and therefore several of the respondents were classified as ‘lurkers’.

Is being a lurker bad? There is no qualification of such one way or another in the Wikipedia guidelines about lurkers, as there is for sockpuppets. The latter, though, is strongly discouraged and if an account is identified as a sockpuppeteer, will be labeled as such and the account blocked.

Having multiple accounts is not the same as being a sockpuppeteer, as there can be legitimate reasons for such. For instance, one of the board members of Wikipedia has two accounts: one each for contributions in two difference languages. Accepted practice (become familiar with this concept if you work in Wikipedia frequently) is to link the multiple accounts together–to demonstrate that there is no intention to deceive.

It is intent to deceive or to dabble in malicious mischief that sets a sock puppeteer apart from a legitimate user with multiple accounts. Sockpuppet accounts are either created deliberately in order to vote multiple times, or to setup “straw man sock puppets” in order to provide weak counter-arguments:

One type of sock puppet is sometimes referred to as a “straw man sock puppet.” They are created by users with one point of view, but act as though they have an opposing point of view, in order to make that point of view look bad, or to act as an online agent provocateur. They will often make poor arguments which their “opponents” can then easily refute. This can allow them to essentially make straw man arguments. Such sock puppets thus become a personification of the straw man argument which their creators argue against. They often act unintelligent or uninformed, and may behave in an overtly bigoted manner. The effect is often to obfuscate the debate and prevent a serious discussion of the arguments from each side. Suspicion of such sock puppets is often harder to verify though, as there are often people who naturally behave in such a manner with the same effects.

Returning to my AFD, the reason the editor checked to see if there were any sockpuppet accounts associated with the voting is that sockpuppeteers typically show up whenever there is an article deletion or modification being debated. Since there were several ‘votes’ associated with my page, one would assume it triggered enough interest to spur verification of the votes before consensus was declared.

What the editor found is that if the votes on my page were not from sockpuppet accounts, they also weren’t meatpuppets. What’s a meatpuppet? According to Wikipedia:

A related issue occurs when non-Wikipedians create new accounts specifically to influence a particular vote or discussion. This is especially common in deletion discussions. These newly created accounts (or anonymous edits) may be friends of a Wikipedian, or may be related in some way to the subject of an article under discussion.

These accounts are not actually sockpuppets, but they are difficult to distinguish from real sockpuppets and are treated similarly. Neither a sockpuppet nor a brand-new, single-purpose account holder is a member of the Wikipedia community. The reason behind this is, for instance, that an article about an online community should not be kept merely because all members of that community show up to vote for it. The Arbitration Committee has ruled that, for the purpose of dispute resolution, when there is uncertainty whether a party is one user with sockpuppets or several users with similar editing habits they may be treated as one user with sockpuppets.

In the case of my ‘voters’, Samw found only one person who might possibly fit the concept of ‘meatpuppet’–an account with only one vote, the one for the article under consideration for deletion.

(How did Samw find out the list of contributions? There is a link to this from a contributor’s User page, regardless if they have created one or not. Look for the link to “User Contributions” in the left sidebar. You can also use the following links, edited to query either the IP address or User account name, and the appropriate Wikipedia language database:

IP Address:

User account:

For more on User Contributions, consult the meta-wiki guide.)

Wikipedia guidelines state that meatpuppet accounts are not true Wikipedia contributor accounts. As such, based on this guideline, if several of you who had never contributed to Wikipedia before had suddenly voted to ‘keep’ my entry–either anonymously (where only your IP address would have shown), or via a brand new account–you would have, most likely, led to the deletion of the entry. Why? The logic behind this is fascinating.

In the case of a community vote, all the votes would have been seen as members of a community speaking with one voice. Since an individual ‘voice’ is only entitled to one vote, there should be only one community vote in the article debate. However, if there are many votes from many different accounts, the votes would have violated the concept of ‘one voice, one vote’, and therefore all would have been classified as a variation of sockpuppet accounts, and disregarded as such.

As regards my entry, since several of the contributors who voted to ‘keep’ my entry either contribute frequently, or have contributed far enough in the past to rule out potential sockpuppet distinction, all are considered viable members of the Wikipedia community and their votes can be ‘trusted’ accordingly.

Next, the editors will evaluate the integrity of the anonymous voters (using these same guidelines), as well as the adherence of this article to admission guidelines and, we can only assume if both are satisfactory, declare these votes valid also. At the end of the designated lag time for discussion (in the case of AFD, five days) the votes will be counted, and the entry kept, or deleted, based on the count.