Running screaming from Slash.

My all-but-comatose music site, Rocknerd, shudders along on Slash. Using WordPress here makes me not want to kill it with a stick, so I’ve put a test site up. The only tentacle I’ve found so far is that I’ll have to learn CSS to make stuff work in whatever theme I pick.

Startlingly useful plugins: Admin Drop Menus (really — install this first), TDO Mini Forms (allow post submissions from the big wide world — essential to replacing Slash), WP Cache (though I’ve hardly the traffic for it), Category Image(s) (essential Slashalike bling … once I work out the CSS), Subscribe To Comments and Get Comments Count.

Are there any other useful plugins worth trying in order to recreate the shiny bits of Slash without the horrors within?

SEO spammers and Googlemancers.

Dear SEO spammers and Googlemancers: go away. We actively don’t care about your page rank.

(That TechCrunch article is really special: make several errors of fact, assume they come from malice and start a conspiracy theory.)

Our responsibility as a top 10 site is to our readers. Our responsibility is not to a third party (search engine optimisers) to make them look good to a fourth party (Google). People whose interest in Wikipedia is page rank are in no way, shape or form our constituency. Because their interest is, fundamentally, spamming.

Pagerank is not a consideration for Wikipedia — it contributes nothing to the project of writing an encyclopedia. This is why SEOs and Googlemancers find it so hard to find anyone at Wikipedia or Wikimedia who cares.

The interwiki map is for the convenience of the projects. Not for the SEO spammers.

This post is fair use under the “I wanna” clause of US copyright law.

I’m a staunch defender of fair use on the English Wikipedia: talking about things requires being able to quote them, and that applies as much to images as to text.

To this end, I’ve been removing a lot of the ridiculous abuses. Orphaning and later deleting a lot of fair abuse — one screenshot is fair use, ten is taking the piss and “fair use” galleries violate copyright, not just policy — not to mention resizing. No, you don’t need a 1500×1000 PNG for a 200×300 thumbnail. I need a bot to resize high-resolution fair abuse.

Today’s grand missing the point was {{User no GFDL}}, whose text was: “This user would prefer not to use free images if there are better fair use ones available.” And never mind little details like the Wikimedia Foundation licensing policy and mission statement. Here’s the deletion discussion, before I came to my senses and zapped the horrible thing, the comment on my talk from its aggrieved creator and the ensuing deletion review.

Perhaps I should be sweeter and fluffier to people, but I find myself unable to rightly apprehend the confusion of ideas involved. How to get someone from there to here in less than geological time?

Carnage at NASA from office ban on self-defense.

With UnNews guest columnist Charlton Heston.

JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Houston, Friday — On Friday, an employee went “postal” in an office at the Johnson Space Center, He was upset over a poor review.

We at the NRA recently attempted to help change NASA rules about guns at work, but a proposal to give employees the right to carry handguns on site died in the boardroom without a shot being fired. Less people would have been shot if workers routinely carried on site. Just imagine if workers were armed. We no longer need to imagine what will happen when they are not armed.

This shows what happens when the working man is unarmed. The rules against concealed carry did not stop this individual from obtaining and using a gun. Would things have been different had a worker or manager been able to shoot back? You’re damned right they would! Allow a man to protect himself and he will. It isn’t rocket science. People need to go to work without fear, and a weapon provides that.

When I worked at Cape Canaveral filming Planet Of The Apes, I knew several co-workers that carried on a regular basis. Most were female office workers. One brought a Browning .380 to work every day. I felt safe knowing my co-workers were armed. And my gosh they were hot with it. I know they felt safe because they had the power to protect both themselves and others.

The Board of Directors is not responsible for this carnage — but they are responsible for keeping their employees from having the option to defend themselves. I’d urge a far more somber board to encourage workers to carry their weapons in the workplace. The lives saved may belong to someone dear to them.

Didn’t the heroes of Flight 93 teach us anything?

Guns can only enhance workplace relations. In business, in government, in the factory, in the call center. Is the fat guy from Solid Rocket Development going to grab the last three Krispy Kremes when there are hungry people with Glocks? An armed workplace is a polite workplace.

UnNews, CC-by-nc-sa 2.0. Started by me, extended by Haze1956.

A modest proposal.

Just posted to foundation-l:

How about using the old domain,, as a site for stable Wikipedia versions, with ads on? The ad money, as well as paying our comparatively small hosting and staff costs, could go toward educational programmes for those people who could benefit from our hard work but aren’t comfortable, well-fed first-world citizens.

(As far as I can tell, pretty much all opposition to ads on Wikimedia comes from people who are in fact comfortable, well-fed first-world citizens who have no problem accessing this material at all. Including opposition on the new thread. I have asked for demographics otherwise and eagerly await any.)

The thread is ticking along nicely, with ideas on how to, why not to, alternatives and of course a ton of ideas on what we could actually do with BUCKETS OF CASH.

Update: I have since changed my mind.

Cleaning up your crap.

OTRS future burnouts habitués frequently declare that the sky is falling, particularly with regard to biographies of living people — they see nothing but the complaints. (The actual problem is likely not nearly as bad, though it still needs urgent attention.) To help, Messedrocker has compiled a list of ill-referenced living bios — you are heartily invited to dive in, reference or gut and cross another name off the list. (The list is in order of article creation — start at the end.) Then you can make a smug post with the title “Sourced, bitch.” and the content being just a list of diffs. Or just wreak havoc on a string of deserving deletables.

I’ve been doing lots of admin stuff this weekend. As a staunch defender of the value of fair use — to discuss something, quoting images is as necessary as quoting text — I’ve been having lots of fun lately going the hack on abuse of the excuse in contravention of policy and indeed copyright. The kids want their candy, and it’s my job and pleasure to take it away from them. And, don’t forget: you can replace any fair-use picture of a living person on English Wikipedia with Image:Replace this image1.svg and it’ll turn into a direct invitation to upload a genuine free content image they actually own themselves.

(I’ve also just unpacked twenty years’ photos and have been scanning and uploading my own replacement free images. If I can, you can.)

Let’s you and him fight.

Wikipedia a force for good? Nonsense, says a co-founder: “The founder of the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia criticised the Education Secretary yesterday for suggesting that the website could be a good educational tool for children.”

(Larry Sanger says on his blog that this was the media going “let’s you and him fight” with an out of context quote. He meant our governance is broken … which a fair few Wikipedians agree on.)

I got calls from the BBC and the Press Association. I didn’t play up to the “let’s you and him fight,” but did note that:

  • Citizendium is more free content and therefore a good thing (per the WMF’s mission, no less) as it helps validate the model and open content in general.
  • They’ve got a good community and seem to have started well.
  • There’s certainly got to be more than one way to do this.
  • Wikipedia is not “reliable”, and the best way to use Wikipedia in schools is for the teacher to teach the kids critical reading. Wikipedia is good if you think. Same for Citizendium, Britannica, autobiographies, blogs and newspapers.

The BBC wanted a telly piece, so I went to the Borders in Oxford Circus, and Borders kindly let the BBC film there. The interviewer, Rory Cellan-Jones, asked me the same question about reliability three or four times until I got it down to a nice soundbite.

They filmed a few walking-around bits in the reference section. Oddly enough, Borders don’t sell printed encyclopedias any more. We decided the Oxford dictionaries would be suitable (I mentioned how the OED used a model like ours starting 150 years ago — volunteer contributions).

This should be on BBC1 six o’clock news this evening. Probably a seven- to ten-second clip of me. That took an hour to make. Maybe I might actually not end up cut this time!

Edit: And a call just now from Andrea from Computeractive. I’ve got it down to two minutes now, each sentence repeated twice.

Edit 2: 15 seconds of fame! About 6:22pm BST. RealVideo stream. My head is way too shiny.

Disaster recovery planning.

The Wikimedia Foundation is in no danger of collapse. There’s all sorts of deeply problematic things about it, but no more than at any other small charity. Situation normal all fouled up.

But it would be prudent to be quite sure that the Foundation failing — through external attack or internal meltdown — would not be a disaster.

The projects’ content: The dumps are good for small wikis, but not for English Wikipedia — they notoriously take ages and frequently don’t work. There are no good dumps of English Wikipedia available from Wikimedia. (I asked Brion about this and he says the backup situation should improve pretty soon, and Jeff Merkey has been putting backups up for BitTorrent.)

The English Wikipedia full text history is about ten gigabytes. The image dumps (which ahahaha you can’t get at all from Wikimedia) are huge, as in hundreds of gigabytes. It’ll be a few years before hard disks are big enough for interested geeks to download this stuff for the sake of it. What can be done to encourage widespread BitTorrenting right now?

The easiest way for a hosting organisation to proprietise a wiki, despite the license, is simply not to make dumps available or usable. And to block spidering the database fast enough to substitute. This is happening inadvertently now; it would be too easy to do deliberately.

Who are you? The user-password database is private to the Foundation, for obvious good reason. But I really hope the devs trusted with access to it are keeping backups in case of Foundation failure.

In the longer term, going to something like OpenID may be a less bad idea for identifying editors.

Hosting it somewhere that can handle it: MediaWiki is a resource hog. Citizendium got lots of media interest and their servers were crippled by the load, with the admin having to scramble to reconfigure things. Conservapedia was off the air for days at a time just from blogosphere interest. Who could put up a copy of English Wikipedia quickly and not be crippled by it?

Suitable country for hosting: What is a good legal regime for the hosting to be under? The UK is horrible. The US seems workable. The Netherlands is fantastic if you can afford the hosting fees. Others? (I fear languages going to the countries they’re spoken in would be a disaster for NPOV.)

Multiple forks: No-one will let a single organisation be the only Wikipedia host again. So we’ll end up with multiple forks for the content. In the short term we’ll have gaffer-and-string kludges for content merging … and lots of POV forking. A Foundation collapse would effectively “publish” wikipedia as of the collapse date — or as of the previous good dump — as the final result of all this work.

(The English Wikipedia community could certainly do with a reboot. Hopefully that would be a benefit. It could, of course, get worse.)

In the longer term, for content integrity, we’ll need a good distributed database backend. (There’s apparently-moribund academic work to this end, and Wikileaks note they’ll need something similar.)

Worst case scenario: A 501(c)(3) can only be eaten by another 501(c)(3), but the assets of a dead one (domains, trademarks, logos, servers) can be bought by anyone. Causing the Foundation to implode could be a very profitable endeavour for a commercial interest, particularly if they smelt blood in the water.

Second worst case scenario: The Wikimedia Foundation’s assets (particularly the trademarks and logos) go to another 501(c)(3): Wikipedia’s hosting problems are solved forever and Google further becomes the Internet. Google gets slack about providing database dumps …

What we need:

  • Good database dumps more frequently. This is really important right now. If the Foundation fails tomorrow, we lose the content.
    • People to want to and be able to BitTorrent these routinely.
  • Backups of the user database.
    • A user identification mechanism that isn’t a single point of failure.
  • Multiple sites not just willing but ready to host it.
  • Content merging mechanisms between the multiple redundant installations.
    • A good distributed database backend.
  • The trademarks to become generic should the Foundation fail.

I’d like your ideas and participation here. What do we do if the Foundation breaks tomorrow?

(See also the same question on my LJ.)

Correction: is not a 501(c)(3). So it couldn’t gobble up Wikimedia directly.

World Intellectual Property Day: April 26, 2007.

From the mailing list:

April 26, 2007 is World Intellectual Property Day, as declared by our friends at WIPO. The theme for 2007 is “Encouraging Creativity” —

I encourage all free culture advocates to organize activities in proximity to IP Day with the theme: “Encouraging Creativity: Are We?”

Rather than a self-congratulatory pat on the back, modern intellectual property regimes deserve critical examination — and, some argue, a kick in the ass. This crucial public policy issue should invite tempered deliberation and public participation, not grandstanding and finger-wagging.

If you have a local CopyNight meet-up in your town, this would be a great theme for April. (Most CopyNights meet on the 4th Tuesday of the month, which would be April 24, just two days before IP Day.)

If not, you could organize some other event — or just get together with a group of friends at your favorite bar or cafe.

Don’t forget: WIPO says, “Member States and organizations are encouraged to send brief reports of the events and activities organized in their country to celebrate World IP Day.” So be sure to send them an announcement of your event. I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to hear.

I’m sure Wikimedians have some marvellous ideas for this one. You have two weeks!

Is this thing on?

Vox sucks in ways only walled garden suburbs can. What was will be at this address. At present I’m trying WordPress, which is apparently reasonably manageable and not hideous. We’ll see how this goes.

How do I set the timezone? The host is in EDT, I’m in BST. UTC all the way through would be just fine, particularly as that’s the time it’s actually displaying.