Over at BlueOregon blog, Kari Chishom posits a theory about why the Oregonian, which just announced 37 new layoffs, is dying. (See below for a summary.) Of course, at WikiProject Oregon, we’re often focused on a different (but not wholly unrelated) issue: the Oregonian’s unwillingness to develop a web site worthy of the modern Internet reader’s attention.

Kari points to the publisher’s inefficient set of offerings for potential advertisers:

Yesterday’s announcement of first-ever newsroom layoffs at the Oregonian included this statement:

The Oregonian, like all newspapers, has endured declining revenues the past few years, the result of the recession and the migration of advertising to the Internet.

That latter excuse, to be frank, is crap.

The Oregonian newsroom folks who were laid off – and those that have survived – deserve to know that OregonLive.com is running an online advertising operation that is so bad that there can only be one explanation: They’re actually trying to earn less ad revenue.

What do you think? Add your comments on the BlueOregon thread.

Two cool things:

Wikimedia Commons recently added the ability to add tags to images, and…

I recently discovered that the U.S. National Atlas and the U.S. Census Bureau have online mapping tools that let you build custom maps; and because they’re made by the U.S. government, you can then upload the results to Wikipedia, etc. Pretty cool!

Here’s an example. Click on it to see it on its Wikimedia Commons page, where you can view the tags. Go ahead and do it — there are some fun surprises!

Map of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation

Map of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation

This week, I was interviewed along with several other WikiProject Oregon members for the Wikipedia Signpost, a newsletter for the Wikipedia editing community. Reporter Cryptic C62 asked some thoughtful questions, and gave us a great opportunity to talk about our work and why we think it’s important. We were asked about our outreach efforts outside Wikipedia, our collaboration in person and on this blog, and about possible policy changes like flagged revisions and tightening the reins on anonymous editing.

Read on for the full interview. (Please note, unlike most content on this blog, this interview is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.)

Interview from the Wikipedia Signpost

Here at the WikiProject Report, we generally conduct interviews with one interviewer and one interviewee. In this week’s issue, we bring to a special group discussion with five active members of WikiProject Oregon. For those readers who live outside the United States, Oregon is a US state in the Pacific Northwest region. Although the state has a population density of only 35.6 people per square mile, the project has more than 50 active members and 15 featured articles. Here to discuss the project are PeteforsythAboutmoviesEncMstrSteven Walling, and Esprqii.

1. While many projects have weekly or monthly collaborations on singular articles, most of WikiProject Oregon’s collaborations feature two or more articles. This process has generated at least 29 DYKs and 4 GAs. Why do you use a double collaboration system, and why does it work so well?

EncMstr: I’m not sure how two was chosen, but it works very well. Usually they are complementary—for example a biography and a piece of legislation—so if one article or task is somehow unappealing then the other is likely to be more interesting. (See here for previous collaborations of the week (COTW).) If the number of active members continues to increase, perhaps the right number would be three at once. I doubt the COTW is responsible for the majority of DYKs and GAs—it’s more often something that comes up on the project talk page that strikes a chord with several people. The best examples of this are Johnson Creek (Willamette River) and Cannabis in Oregon.
Esprqii: I think taking a rational approach to the collaborations has been a key part of it. For example, before the weekly collaborations started, we spent a long time rating every single article in the project both in terms of importance and in terms of quality. That left a matrix that showed, for example, which articles were of top importance but were still only stubs. Those were the first articles we collaborated on, and today, if you look at the matrix, there are no articles in that category.
In addition to the rational process, we maintain a wish list of future projects, which inevitably include pet projects of various members of the project. You can’t very well ignore it when your pet has the spotlight! Aboutmovies, who manages the whole collaboration process, has been very crafty about mixing up the rational and the irrational to make it fun, get a lot of people involved, and get a lot of good work done.
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Tomorrow (July 30), the article on Portland’s Forest Park will be featured on Wikipedia’s main page. Though many of us have worked on this article over the years, its status as a “Featured Article” is a testament to some tremendous work by WikiProject Oregon member Finetooth. Finetooth has produced a number of high-quality Oregon articles, mostly about rivers and watersheds. Take a look for a thorough examination of one of Portland’s great natural areas!

I’ll be on the radio tomorrow morning with Oregon Encyclopedia editor Bill Lang, discussing our respective online encyclopedia projects and how we engage with the people of Oregon.

Hope you can listen, and call in with questions! Check out producer David Miller’s excellent post introducing the show. And for those out of state, you can listen online (or check the post after the show for an audio archive).

Tomorrow morning:

Friday May 8, 9-10 AM PDT
Oregon Public Broadcasting
91.5 FM in Portland

Amber Case gettin' stylish at the Ignite Portland after-party/RecentChangesCamp pre-party

 

Amber Case gettin' stylish at the Ignite Portland after-party/RecentChangesCamp pre-party

 

The smartest wiki folk in all the land have descended on Portland! RecentChangesCamp 2009, an annual “open spaces” conference about online collaboration tools and communities, is currently underway at Portland State University. If you’re in the neighborhood, come on by! The conference runs through mid-day Sunday; check the site linked above for all the details. Here are a few photos.

 

Geoff Burling, Cary Bass, Pete Forsyth, and Phoebe Ayers discuss the future of Wikipedia

Geoff Burling, Cary Bass, Pete Forsyth, and Phoebe Ayers discuss the future of Wikipedia

 

RecentChangesCamp is underway!

RecentChangesCamp is underway!

 

The Writing on the Wall

The Writing on the Wall

 

We have folks from all over: Wikipedia, Connectipedia,sponsors Wikihow and AboutUs, Fandom Wiki, and numerous other wiki communities.

It’s with regret that I direct your attention to this blog post from ReadWriteWeb (RWW). To sum it up: RWW, one of the 20 most visited blogs on the planet, has been on Wikipedia’s spam blacklist for something approaching a year.

Naturally, RWW founder and editor Richard MacManus was a bit miffed to learn of this. And like any netizen passionate about his work, he took steps to get the error corrected.

But the approach he took went horribly awry.

Apparently, Richard didn’t put much effort into determining what issues were at play. As a result, he began from a fundamentally flawed premise, which any regular Wikipedia editor could have pointed out to him: he confused the blacklist, a technical tool intended to combat the massive quantities of spam that get posted to Wikipedia articles, with Wikipedia’s general policy and guideline relating to verifiability and reliable sources. It’s true that citations to blogs are often discouraged, but that’s not because they’re blogs; it’s because most blogs don’t have a sufficient claim to being accurate and reliable. (Case in point, Richard’s post, which was apparently not run by anyone knowledgeable about Wikipedia.)

In short: there is no Wikipedia policy or guideline that rules out blogs or user-generated content from being cited on Wikipedia. The relevant policy and guideline outline some general considerations, but they make no outright prohibition on blogs.

What’s more, like all of Wikipedia, the guideline is open to influence. It’s ironic that someone who chooses to pontificate about the norms of a Web 2.0 world should fail so spectacularly to understand that constructive suggestions are the best (and often only) way to accomplish change in a community like Wikipedia.

I’m disappointed that the initial post set the stage for a bunch of ill-informed and non-constructive blog comments. I support Richard’s central contention that RWW should be removed from the blacklist, but his form of advocacy is damaging the public’s understanding of Wikipedia, and in my view reflects very poorly on ReadWriteWeb (a site that I generally admire).

Below is a comment I attempted to post in the thread, which hasn’t yet made it through moderation:

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Building the schedule at RecentChangesCamp 2008

Building the schedule at RecentChangesCamp 2008

In the McCarthy era, American citizens were jailed for the crime of being “collaborators” or “informers.”

Today, even multi-million dollar companies are tripping over themselves trying to figure out how to foster better collaboration and manage information more effectively.

How times have changed! (Hat tip to Jeremiah for the metaphor.)

Wiki technology and culture is at the core of how our society is making that transition. Many of us form and join new communities on a regular basis, using wikis and other collaborative Internet tools.

But what’s a community without handshakes, shared meals, beer and wine, or a spontaneous game of catch?

The international wiki community gathers once a year for an “unconference” called RecentChangesCamp. It’s free. That has two meanings: it costs no money and it liberates your soul.

If you’re part of the evolving world of online collaboration, we need you at the 2009 RecentChangesCamp. We need you to lead a discussion, or participate in one. Or to set up the table with nametags or clean up a spilled drink. We’re finding better ways to collaborate online, and to do that, we need to get together in person once in a while!

RecentChangesCamp will be held at Portland (Oregon) State University, the weekend of February 20–22. Or come early if you want, and get those synapses warmed up at Ignite Portland!

Sign up on our wiki (based on the innovative Wagn software). Or view (or edit!) our online invitation. But above all — COME ON DOWN!!

Thanks to AboutUs, WikiHow, and Portland State University for their generous contributions to make this conference possible!

Do you want to set up your own blog — or contribute to a group blog (like this one, perhaps) — but don’t know where to start? If you’re in Portland, there’s a free seminar this Saturday afternoon that will help you get up to speed!

The Portland Beer and Blog community is hosting “End Bloglessness” at CubeSpace, on Saturday afternoon, January 10. Click the link for all the details!

Lyza Danger Gardner contributed this image, from a Fred Meyer supermarket, to Wikipedia.

 Last night, I had two separate conversations (by coincidence) with mostly-amateur photographers Lyza and Cam, who want to contribute images to Wikipedia.

Both were driven by a desire to contribute to a common repository of knowledge and beauty, and both were frustrated by Wikipedia’s requirement that their contributions be made available for commercial use.

This is not a new debate, but it’s one worth delving into a bit.

The key befuddlement, of course, is this: why would Wikipedia (and related Wikimedia Foundation projects), which is a non-profit venture both in spirit and its technical classification, require that photographers release their property for unlimited commercial use?

The answer appears to date back to the Wikimedia Foundation’s decision to use the GFDL as its basic license. I haven’t been able to uncover the deliberation that led to that decision, but the reason is generally this: we’re seeking to create an encyclopedia that can be freely republished, in many formats and with many variations, so that it can be available to an enormous number of people in an enormous number of ways.

For instance, I just installed a neat program called Quickpedia on my new cell phone. This program fills a need that Wikipedia itself hasn’t, and possibly never will: it makes it really easy to browse Wikipedia articles on my mobile phone. But the program contains advertising, making it a commercial enterprise.

If Wikipedia allowed photographers to upload content that doesn’t permit commercial use, that would mean programs like this couldn’t exist; or at least, it would massively increase the complexity of making such a program, and force the developers to create an incomplete version of Wikipedia, absent of any photos that don’t permit commercial use.

I brought this up to Lyza; she explained that as far as she’s concerned, programs like Quickpedia are Wikipedia; she’d be happy to use a license, if it were available, that permitted uses like that, but that disallow people making commercial products (advertising, calendars, etc.) that are completely unrelated to Wikipedia.

So, my question is this: is there a way for the copyleft geeks and attorneys of our community to craft a license that hews closely to Lyza’s stated desires?

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