Archive for March 2009

For April 1

March 31, 2009

I meant to post earlier your blog assignment for the week: Blog about your experience doing the Wikipedia project. Was it harder/easier than you expected? What problems or challenges did you run into?

Wikipedia Reports

March 19, 2009

Good rainy Thursday morning to you all! I’m not going to assign any reading for next week’s Omni-Class, though if you have any other subjects that you’re interested in, please email me to ensure that we can incorporate it into the class. I want you to devote the next week to getting a good start on your Wikipedia project. Here’s what I’m looking for, due April 1st:

* Write a new page or substantially edit an existing page within Wikipedia. By substantial, I will be looking for more than 200 words of original material or the equivalent in terms of reorganization or “wikification.” You’re going to be graded not just on your contribution but how well you do within the bounds of Wikipedia—whether your contributions are welcomed, fit within the context of the Talk page within your particular entry, your adherance to NPOV and “notability” guidelines, and the like. You’ll need to spend some time learning the ethos of Wikipedia via its tutorial and reading through the tutorials and talk/discussion pages where you want to make your contribution. You won’t be penalized if your changes are undone, as long as you have a good case for your notability/NPOV, etc., and engage in the discussion if necessary.

Here’s the tutorial page to get started. Make sure to play around this week so we can answer any questions you have in class next week.

Go forth and conquer!

UPDATE: For your blog post for this week, pick something out of the Del.icio.us feed and write about it. Make sure to label it a response post. Also, since I know some of you mentally appeared to still be on spring break last week, make sure that you wrote *last week’s* entry too, on Wikipedia.

Truthiness

March 13, 2009

With the Wikipedia class, we’re going to delve into the world of what Stephen Colbert calls “Truthiness.”

As your first journey into Truthiness and the challenges of the web, take a look at the documentary “Loose Change,” which was put together online to highlight the U.S. government’s role in the 9/11 attacks. On YouTube, hundreds of thousands of people have been able to view “Loose Change”—and, if you take the time to watch it, it makes a pretty convincing case that we don’t know the full truth about the 9/11 attacks. All told, across its various postings and versions, more than ten million people have watched the video. The challenge, of course, is that at best the documentary aspires to “truthiness,” that is it’s hard for a lay viewer to judge its actual level of factual interaction. Places like Popular Mechanics have tried to debunk the theories. One student last semested pointed out to me in class a parody of “Loose Change” called “Unfastened Coins.”

It’s easy to dismiss endeavors like “Loose Change” (or is it?), but the journey into Wikipedia is much more complicated. Here’s some background reading and viewing on Wikipedia, the world’s largest encyclopedia. Its founder, Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales, has turned into one of the web’s big celebs. He’s a big proponent of collaboration and “crowd-sourcing.” The project, though, despite becoming the default research tool for most college students and lazy journalists/researchers is very controversial for its “truthiness.” It’s very hard to know what exactly you can and can’t trust on Wikipedia. Newsman John Seigenthaler got very burned by a libelous write-up, and not surprisingly Encyclopedia Britannica thinks the project is the devil incarnate. On the other hand, a Nature study found that the two are about equal in accuracy. Of course, the beauty/challenge of Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it, as Colbert likes to demonstrate by raising the subject of “Wikiality” on subjects like elephants.

If you want a few other examples of wikis and how they’re used, check out the DisInfopedia and these useful resources on what wikis are and how to use them to collaborate. The articles also include some useful tips on how you might apply wikis to the work that you’re doing.

This is the week that I want you to be most wary of what we’re learning. Ask hard questions about wikis and Wikipedia—we’re going to talk in class about your mini-project, which will include contributing to a Wikipedia entry and preparing a research report on using a program that allows you to track who’s been editing a particular entry. Your blog entry should focus on the following two questions: Should we trust Wikipedia or an expert-led encyclopedia more? How could Wikipedia be better set-up to better provide accuracy? Should it be open to everyone or just verified “experts”?

In class, I’ll walk you through some Wikipedia pages, help you set up accounts, and explain WikiScanner.

REMINDER: Your social media report is due at the beginning of class. Do not be late to class. I will be collecting reports at 7:45 and anything turned in after that will be marked late.