Thursday, April 24, 2008

Not the Wikipedia Weekly

Over at Not the Wikipedia Weekly we had an interesting time today. Brian Bergstein of the Associated Press was our guest and we were lucky to have him. He was an excellent guest, yet a few things came up surrounding this episode that I'd have to call lessons learned.

First is communications. I thought I had communicated well enough with other people about when this Skypecast would be, and who our guest would be, and about seeking additional people for the panel. Some wires got crossed and a few balls got dropped. Part of that was due to my own time spent on other commitments: I had been in a conference for two days. So although I'd been e-mailing some people, I really hadn't spent the normal amount of time on follow-through.

So I actually discovered, much to my surprise, that on the morning of our best guest to date he knew about the Skypecast and I knew about it but practically nobody else did. I messaged some people, hoping to draw in enough guests to fill the room adequately, and some pretty good people joined. We wound up with so many that there were some concerns about the room's stability. During the time when I was seeking participants I also put up messages on administrative noticeboard and on the Foundation mailing list.

Two of the people who asked to join us have been banned from Wikipedia. This came up at the last moment and the NTWW organizers hadn't really anticipated how to handle this. Two of our previous episodes had included banned users at the invitation of the chat host, but in terms of running a recorded chat that's a very different environment from when banned users aren't expected and they just want to hop in at the last moment.

And one of those two individuals who wanted to join us today has taken a very public dislike to me. To put the matter politely, he and I are like oil and water and just haven't been able to hold a productive conversation. I might be willing to try again on neutral ground in some way, but to foist that upon a prominent guest on the spur of the moment just wouldn't have been quite right. Mr. Bergstein could have had a few things to say, but he hadn't come prepared for the discussion this person wanted to hold and, frankly, neither had I.

The informal "Not the Wikipedia Weekly" chats had a proviso that they were for trusted members of the community. Skype is not a totally secure online environment, so that's a legitimate concern. And unfortunately, both of these people were active at a forum where some of the membership had used - I hope the accurate term is malware - and that method of collecting information had not been condemned. In fairness to these two people, I do not know of either of them ever having used that themselves. Yet those of us who don't participate there are skittish about the company they keep, and I hope that concern is understandable.

A decision had to be made quickly, and the decision I made was to shut one of the two out of the conversation entirely. I welcomed the other into the text chat, and because the voice connection was large enough that it was unstable he texted his questions for the voice recording and I read them off. They were very good questions. For technical reasons I didn't get the first one into the recording. The others went off quite well. Post-recording, once the room was a little smaller, he joined us in voice for a while.

So the Not the Wikipedia Weekly regulars are having a discussion today about how to improve the way we handle these things. People deserve to know what the rules are (and sometimes things that haven't been anticipated just have to be resolved on the fly). We're a new project that's been running for less than two months, and a few kinks are inevitable. We'll be straightening them out.


Moulton said...

Durova, the audio for Episode 11 with Brian Bergstein has now been posted, but it appears to be incomplete. The audio ends abruptly in the middle of Brian's response to my question asking him to compare ethics in journalism to ethics on WP:

Moulton's 3rd Question to Brian Bergstein: Professional journalists have a code of ethics that they follow. How would you compare the ethical guidelines to which professional journalists adhere to the level of ethics manifested within the WP community?

I appreciate your efforts to moderate the public Skypecast under awkward circumstances, but I'm also disappointed that the posted audio appears to be incomplete.

Do you have any plans to post the relevant portions of the text chat transcript?

Lise Broer said...

Hi, sorry about the technical problems there. We did a review and some portions were not recoverable.

We actually had two text chats running concurrently during that recording. I wouldn't mind publishing ours if you'd be comfortable with that, Moulton. I think the way we're going to handle text chat publications is that we'll seek express permission from each participant in advance, if something is going to be published.

The main text chat contains requests for the host to give some person a chance to comment, plus the typed comments of anyone who doesn't have a mike, plus a little bit of side chatter between people who aren't speaking at that moment (smiley faces, etc.).

Moulton said...

I would favor the posting of our private text chat, Durova. If you agree, I can post it here as a comment, which you can release from moderation if it looks OK to you.

As you know, there are some important items in the public group text chat that were discussed by the panelists, including some materials provided by Awadewit and Antiquity. It would probably be worthwhile to highlight those materials in the splash page for Episode 11, to make it easier for people to follow the audio commentaries. There may be some other good commentaries in the group text chat that similarly deserve to be highlighted, especially if you didn't have a chance to read all the good comments on-air.