SOPA blackout post-mortem.

Ah, the luxury of seeing the media storm coming. That said, I was expecting it Wednesday and the phones started ringing the moment the warning banner went up on Tuesday. The UK press volunteers managed most of what we were asked for, though we had a shortage of faces for television — cheers to Steve Virgin, Jon Davies, Roger Bamkin, Martin Poulter, Mike Peel and of course Jimbo.

I spent two days doing radio. The analogy I bludgeoned into the ground (nicked from Cory Doctorow): “Banks notice that bank robbers use cars for getaways. Their solution: we have to ban cars. You say that’s ridiculous and damaging and won’t work anyway. They say ‘YOU JUST LIKE BANK ROBBERS!'” I’m told I suitably scared people on Radio 4 PM (38:50 on) with the consequences for UK business, though I could have done better. (Must not engage with the lying RIAA bullshit. Must not engage with the lying RIAA bullshit. Just repeat the soundbites. Must not engage with the lying RIAA bullshit.)

(If you’re an experienced UK Wikipedian, think you could acquit yourself reasonably well in real-time questioning and have no problem with being a very minor public figure, please make yourself known on the wikimediauk-l mailing list and/or local meetups and you may get lined up for next time stuff explodes, the press want a random Wikipedian, etc. And feel free to casually talk to your local media about Wikipedia as the occasion arises.)

I’m amazed that several hundred Wikipedians largely agreed on anything at all. The Wikipedia community will fiddle around the edges of an issue forever and then not do anything. If you say to a bunch of Wikipedians “the sky is blue”, they’ll come back with a hundred pages of referenced counterexamples. The key skill to being a Wikipedia editor appears to be generalised cross-domain bikeshedding.

I hope we don’t do this, or anything like it, again any time soon. Our power requires not being used very often at all. But then: if Wikipedia says you suck … you really, really suck.

Open Street Map beats Google Maps for business use.

Google have started gouging for Google Maps. It turns out that when you price like Oracle, people do the numbers and say fuck it:

$200,000 to $300,000 a year is, at the very least, the same as hiring a very good engineer for a year (and paying all the taxes and benefits and costs and still having a lot of money left). It was enough money to finally push us into doing our own maps.

(More detail. They didn’t actually spend less money — generating and serving all the map tiles is the expensive bit — but they got much more control and a much better result for the same money.)

I’ve long thought OpenStreetMap would have fit Wikimedia’s portfolio wonderfully — it’s a marvellous example of a project doing really well with the Wikipedia model, without being a linked entity. (And thus helping our mission without us doing the work.)

I remember a London Dorkbot presentation in 2004 on OSM — a friend who was working for Multimap pooh-poohed the idea that OSM could ever achieve a usable-quality map. I had been involved in Wikipedia for a few months at that time and considered this immediately obviously wrong, having seen what a few people just chucking in what they knew could achieve even at that stage.

OSM now has a foundation. Seeing as their server appears to be melting, they could probably do with a quid or two. They’re not yet officially a UK charity, but WMUK achieving charitable status does makes this more feasible.

There should be no chance to gouge for this sort of content. What other rent-seeking business models can the Wikipedia model destroy? Update: List of things that need to be free.