Monday, December 29, 2008

ArbCom 2009?

This may be a preview of what to expect from the 2009 Wikipedia Arbitration Committee, and if this is a sample then things don't look good.

Two days ago Geoff Plourde opened a request for clarification on the recently closed Piotrus 2 arbitration case. AGK agreed that a case which had about 20 named parties and remedies upon a substantial number of them would be better named Eastern European Disputes then named after one party.

The first arbitrator to respond was Rlevse:

Question--did anyone ask this before the case closed, by any method? RlevseTalk 01:47, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

Well, if you know Wikipedia arbitration, the first place you'd look is the top of the case workshop page. And sure enough, second from top is a formal motion to do that.

Geoff was on the ball. Nine minutes after Rlevse's query he supplied a link to the motion:

A motion was filed
here, but Arbitrators did not act on it despite support from several members of the community. Geoff Plourde (talk) 01:56, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

In a sensible world that would clarify things, right? Kirill had a comment (more on that in a moment) before Newyorkbrad dropped this on the page:

It frequently happens that the final scope of a case winds up being different from what was anticipated, and we don't usually rename the case for this reason (except sometimes by dropping the name of a party who winds up not really being mentioned in the final decision at all). That being said, I might be willing to consider taking action here if Piotrus feels strongly about it; otherwise, there's really no reason to.
Newyorkbrad (talk) 00:27, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Okay, Brad may be everybody's favorite arbitrator, but how hard would it be to click on Geoff's link and see that the motion to rename the case was actually initiated by Piotrus himself?

Proposed. First, it is obvious that I and Deacon are not the only parties. I believe that all editors who have presented extensive evidence sections or started their own workshop proposals (other than arbcom members) should be recognized as parties. Second, the focus of this case is not only my person, but quite a few other editors (this was also the case with Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Piotrus. However, framing it as "Piotrus arbcom" is misleading, as it gives uninvolved bystanders an impression that it's "all about Piotrus and nobody else". This ArbCom started as "Piotrus-Deacon" but have obviously outgrown that, and should be renamed to something more general and less fingering individuals, such as "Eastern Europe". Let me stress: this is not a technicality, naming is important (see framing (social sciences).--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk 18:39, 9 October 2008 (UTC)

Apparently Sam Blacketer didn't click on Geoff's link either because he reflect's Brad's confusion over whether Piotrus wants it.

It's a bit late but a rename would not be inappropriate if, as Brad says, Piotrus feels it is important.
Sam Blacketer (talk) 19:55, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

FayssalF also weighed in with a curious condition.

I have no problem with renaming this recently closed case (to reflect final remedies). However, I'd recommend such requests be made within a week of the closure; otherwise we'll end up renaming cases closed years ago. --
FayssalF - Wiki me up® 17:15, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Um, how about considering requests that get made two months before the case closed? Could you do that perhaps? Or could you (ahem) pay attention to them?

We have not, traditionally, renamed cases merely because the final decision dealt with users whose names did not feature in the original title; the only occasions I can recall where we undertook this sort of change involved removing names, not adding them. I'm not convinced that the idea of matching the title with the scope, in and of itself, is worth the confusion that radically renaming the case will cause; is there some substantive benefit to doing so? Kirill 03:20, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

No arbitrator commented upon Piotrus's motion during the case (or apparently even noticed it was there), so even though editor responses ranged from neutral to favorable apparently, by Kirill's rationale, the fact that a reasonable motion gets ignored by the Committee eventually becomes grounds to hallow the mistake.

The most sensible comment so far has come from FloNight:

I'm open to renaming this case. My preference is to never name a case after an user since it often causes them distress. In situation such as this one, I think that naming the case after a single user in not for the best since it over emphasizes his importance in the situation.
FloNight♥♥♥ 13:58, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Although I wouldn't go quite as far as she does about case names generally, she appears to recognize the basic problem here.

What's worrisome is that several of these arbitrators weigh in with statements and questions that demonstrate a lack of even cursory examination of the matter at hand. I admire and respect people who disagree with me when their research and reasoning holds together, but it is frankly impossible to respect the opinions of people whose statements reflect a refusal to do obvious and easy homework. This is not the way to arbitrate, and several of our Committee members ought to be blushing when they read this.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Regarding this week's stuff

"You can fool all of the people some of the time, and you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." - Abraham Lincoln

Been a bit busy with onsite stuff the last week or so. Once in a while a handful of edits take a whole lot of work. Just a few asides to go along with that.

A certain episode of The Simpsons played a role in some evidence. Well, that goes both ways. So here's a suggestion.

In another episode called "Missionary: Impossible" Homer becomes a missionary on a South Seas island. At the end of the episode he tells the natives they can follow any religion they like. "Except the Unitarians. If that's the one true faith I'll eat my hat."

Well ya know, watch that show long enough and sooner or later, whoever you are, they take aim at you. I was sitting in a room with a bunch of other UUs when that came on, and for two seconds we all exchanged glances, gasped somebody remembered us. And then we laughed our ears off.

So if you don't like what I did this week (or if you do like it) go ahead and take revenge (reward) by building up that article. Heck, run the insult on the main page.

It's a joke.

And it's a cartoon.

Peace on earth, goodwill toward Marge.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Who watches the watchers?

Following up on the other day, let's see what effect the Internet Watch Foundation's censorship of Wikipedia has had. Traffic to the Virgin Killer article skyrocketed in two days and half a million people suddenly needed to see what all the fuss was about. Clearly, most of them never would have cared about a 32-year-old release by a heavy metal band. That's the kind of attention ham-handed censorship efforts bring.

And it's sad, because nearly everyone does sympathize with IWF's fundamental goal of combatting child pornography. So The Guardian reports IWF is reconsidering its decision. That's a good sign but it's not enough, because it leaves me wondering how many of the other 10,000 censorship decisions IWF makes each year are equally loopy. Either it's never been wrong before (not bloody likely) or there's a serious lack of oversight and appeal.

I had my own run-in with censorship a few months ago. Not with the IWF but with Facebook. And to this day it remains unresolved. It started innocently enough. I do a lot of image restoration volunteer work for Wikipedia. Quite a few of those had been selected as featured pictures. So I created a few Facebook photo albums, one of which was exclusively for my Wikipedia featured image work.

After a few months, without warning, the Facebook staff sent a nasty notice and blocked my access to the featured picture album. The notice offered no means of appeal. When I located a feedback email address at their site (which wasn't easy) and attempted to appeal, they didn't reply.

The image here seems to be the source of their complaint. I can't tell for certain because I prefer to give up access to that gallery than to acknowledge the Facebook team's accusation. The poster comes from the 1866 Pennsylvania gubernatorial race and the text of the full size image is an appeal to white voters to oppose voting rights for African-Americans. It's history--undoubtedly a distateful bit of history--but it's important to document how blatant those attitudes were a century and a half ago.

This image ran on Wikipedia's main page on June 29, 2008 where it received 17.3 million page views without any complaint. It currently appears at the articles racism, John W. Geary, Hiester Clymer, Disfranchisement after Reconstruction era (United States), and as a selected picture at Wikipedia's featured Civil War portal.

If it makes you feel any better, Clymer the racist lost that election. Real bigotry is appalling; I'm not it. I've also done featured restorations of African-American Civil War soldiers, postwar buffalo soldiers, and a portrait of Harriet Tubman.

What's scary is that in our own era, despite obvious encyclopedic value, somebody at Facebook decided to censor the wrong stuff. There's no way of telling who or why; no way to appeal the decision or correct their error. Both Facebook and IWF are equally prone to trolling and gaming in their attempts to manage inappropriate content because neither organization acknowledges that it might not be right every time. Once they make a decision--short of an outcry in the press--there's no appeal.

Update: the IWF has ended its censorship of Wikipedia, per their appeals procedure. What they haven't done is implemented a rational way of initiating an appeal. Since they don't report their decisions in the first place, most of the 10,000 sites they go after each year never even know they've been targeted. Nor is there any independent watchdog to second guess their choices.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Bad taste v. hypocrisy

In the eternal struggle between bad taste and hypocrisy, usually bad taste is less offensive. In case you haven't seen the new Associated Press article, British readers have been blocked from accessing an article because it contains an image of a nude child. The article itself is about a 1976 album released by the German band The Scorpions. In a cheap tasteless gimmick the band and its record label called the album Virgin Killer. In case for whatever reason the image isn't available to you, here's a direct link. You can also view the image at on a couple of pages, or at The Scorpions official website, or any number of other places.

Yet rather than target any of the other sites that host this 32-year-old commercial image, the Internet Watch Foundation has decided to focus on Wikipedia. The lady depicted has reached middle age. The image would remain in well-deserved derision and obscurity if it weren't for this attention. And the consenus of Wikipedia volunteers aren't happy about the hassle.

In the words of one site administrator, Jonathan Hochman:
There are two stories: a) censorship, and b) technologically hamfisted measures.

If the censors used XFF, at least there would not be so much collateral damage.

I am also very nonplussed that this censorship was approved by a private charity that answers to nobody.

XFF stands for X Forward-for. It's a protocol that proxies use to identify the source of an Internet transaction. This helps Web 2.0 sites have the ability to identify users by IP address and block those who are disruptive.

As things stand now, if any user in the UK gets blocked, the autoblock will prevent a huge swath of the UK from editing. This is an enourmous [sic], unnecessary problem.
So in response to one image readily available elsewhere, Wikipedia's ability to respond to inappropriate conduct of any sort from UK users has been severely hampered. And actual UK pedophiles (if any are active) have an easier time hiding in the crowd. In other words, the worst of all possible worlds.

Want to do something about it? Well claims are floating around that the album cover has been banned. It hasn't been; a lot of music stores carry it. And Wikimedia Foundation UK press contact David Gerard is speaking to the press tomorrow. Editors who don't mind letting their face and identity be known can help demonstrate that the image is indeed widely available, by photographing themselves with it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Fun with umlauts

Along with writing music articles I've put up a few good article nominees. That means I owe the karma bank a few reviews. Another editor put up a music article for GA consideration recently. It wouldn't be fair to review an article written by someone I know so I picked a different entry from the top of the nominee list. That way his would move up in the queue.

The oldest unreviewed candidate turned out to be Defeated Sanity, "a German brutal death metal band from Dachsbach, Bavaria." Well isn't that something? Not my cup of tea, necessarily (especially since my cup of tea is usually coffee), but let's have a look.

It appears to be a well organized article with adequate references. Summarizes the band's history, releases, reviews, and personnel changes. Brief, yet probably comprehensive given the limitations of the subject. The prose could use a polish, though.

What caught my eye especially was a strange accent mark over the u of a band member's name. Might that have been a misreading? Checking the references, indeed it was in error. I had found perhaps the world's only encyclopedia article about heavy metal that had a legitimate shortage of umlauts. So here's the review:
Overall looks pretty good. In good conscience, however, it would be an insult to the genre to outright pass a metal article that lacked needed umlauts. I've fixed the missing ones in the band member name. Please copyedit and proofread, then contact me for a second review. DurovaCharge! 19:35, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
...another day on Wikipedia.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Small worries

Ever notice how trolls dish it out but they can't take it? If you've wanted to turn the tables then you're going to love this post.

A fellow who calls himself Grawp has been having his lulz at Wikipedia. He's got one joke, which was never very funny. Grawp has been going through Wikipedia volunteer userspaces in his entirely predictable manner for months dragging on into years and it seemed like a matter of time until he got to me.

Now before proceeding a caution is in order: Grawp's only joke is graphic and sexual. Basically it's an explicit boast about his own supposed prowess. So what follows here is not family friendly.

The matter got me to thinking why a fellow would go on in that way. Doesn't that demonstrate an obvious need to compensate for something? If Grawp had an actual partner then eventually he'd go out to the movies instead. Maybe he'd even get lucky and have sex in earnest. But his behavior was entirely consistent with a man who was--for want of a better word--his own best friend. One who takes matters into his own hands and yet still comes up short.

So here's the welcome I had waiting when he paid me a visit. Isn't it sweet? The image is my own creation and copyleft; feel free to reuse it. The puppet is of course a generic troll, but if the ruler fits...

And today I got a friendly ping and a history log from a contributor to another wiki. You see, the one advantage to Grawp's proclivities is that the troll sockpuppet with the two inch ruler is the only thing about him that's going viral. Apparently Grawp isn't quite happy about that. Could it be (ahem) that this little quip has too much truth about it?

What follows is Grawp getting short with another Encyclopedia Dramatica editor. I don't edit that site so click at your own risk:

  • cur) (last) 23:45, 3 December 2008 Ritegroic (Talk | Contribs) (53,467 bytes) (lulz)
  • (cur) (last) 23:43, 3 December 2008 Ritegroic (Talk | Contribs) m (53,477 bytes)
  • (cur) (last) 23:21, 3 December 2008 Raspberry Rush (Talk | Contribs) m (Protected "Grawp": STOP THE BULLSHIT. [edit=sysop:move=sysop] (expires 07:20, 6 December 2008 (UTC)))
  • (cur) (last) 23:15, 3 December 2008 Milton Hoe (Talk | Contribs) m (53,248 bytes) (fixing some stuff; you Wikipedos have conflict of interest regarding this article and thus cannot be trusted)
  • (cur) (last) 22:55, 3 December 2008 Cracked (Talk | Contribs) (53,058 bytes) (hey Allie, be nice)
  • (cur) (last) 22:04, 3 December 2008 Alliecat (Talk | Contribs) m (53,045 bytes) (oops - missed a bit)
  • (cur) (last) 22:02, 3 December 2008 Alliecat (Talk | Contribs) (53,049 bytes) (Here, if you don't want your email addy visible, do this. It's still available to bots y'know.)
  • (cur) (last) 22:01, 3 December 2008 Alliecat (Talk | Contribs) (53,058 bytes) (rv- quit the wholesale revert of my changes, Grawp. Everyone knows you don't use proxies, hence the begging unblock requests on Meta. Also get over WoW.)
  • (cur) (last) 21:12, 3 December 2008 Grawp (Talk | Contribs) m (53,248 bytes) (fixing some stuff)
  • (cur) (last) 20:42, 3 December 2008 Alliecat (Talk | Contribs) (53,058 bytes) (Various fixes and copyedits / factual fixes (like the proxy stuff))
  • (cur) (last) 18:37, 3 December 2008 Captain Emo (Talk | Contribs) m (53,072 bytes) (This one works so much better, Jeremy, you inadequate, limp-cocked little fuckbag)
  • (cur) (last) 18:02, 3 December 2008 Grawp (Talk | Contribs) (51,538 bytes) (Nice job erasing half the article, you stupid slut. Go back to Ireland. I hear the standard of living is higher there.)
  • (cur) (last) 17:39, 3 December 2008 Alliecat (Talk | Contribs) (23,725 bytes) (Undo revision 1997844969 by Grawp(Talk) GTFO)
  • (cur) (last) 17:26, 3 December 2008 Grawp (Talk | Contribs) m (53,248 bytes)
  • (cur) (last) 11:03, 3 December 2008 Hagger? (Talk | Contribs) (53,072 bytes) (Undo revision 1997844576 by Norbert(Talk) fucking cunt doesn't know when to fucking stop)
  • (cur) (last) 10:53, 3 December 2008 Norbert (Talk | Contribs) m (53,002 bytes)
  • (cur) (last) 10:13, 3 December 2008 MysteryBot (Talk | Contribs) m (53,072 bytes) ([Automatic] Reverting possible vandalism.)
  • (cur) (last) 10:10, 3 December 2008 6T3nwt3FYoiQi (Talk | Contribs) m (2,391 bytes)
  • (cur) (last) 09:32, 3 December 2008 Raspberry Rush (Talk | Contribs) m (53,072 bytes) (Undo revision 1997844512 by Norbert (Talk) You killed a pic for a pointless edit.)
  • (cur) (last) 09:21, 3 December 2008 Norbert (Talk | Contribs) m (53,002 bytes)
  • (cur) (last) 08:21, 3 December 2008 Hagger? (Talk | Contribs) (53,072 bytes) (so true)
  • (cur) (last) 08:02, 3 December 2008 Alliecat (Talk | Contribs) (53,074 bytes) (Fuck off yourself, pal)
  • (cur) (last) 07:50, 3 December 2008 The Gaffer (Talk | Contribs) (53,002 bytes) (Past life)
  • (cur) (last) 07:39, 3 December 2008 The Gaffer (Talk | Contribs) (52,963 bytes) (Undo revision 1997844205 byAlliecat (Talk) - fuck off, you stupid, annoying, menopausal bitch)
  • (cur) (last) 22:53, 2 December 2008 Alliecat (Talk | Contribs) (53,035 bytes) (+pic, courtesy of Durova - lol)
  • (cur) (last) 22:08, 2 December 2008 Cracked (Talk | Contribs) (52,963 bytes) (rv repeated vandalism)
  • (cur) (last) 22:04, 2 December 2008 Grawp (Talk | Contribs) m (53,248 bytes) (Undo revision 1997844151 byCracked (Talk))
  • Wednesday, December 03, 2008

    Shiny happy people holding hands

    Kmweber has been benched from this blog for turnovers.

    First down Durova. Passing play.

    As you might have noticed from another post around here, a lovely troll puppet recently made its way to another website, much to the chagrin of a particular person being lampooned. That fellow was indeed a troll.

    Some people say Kurt's a troll too. I haven't decided.

    Of course two factors make all the difference. One is caption. That last image sat around innocently for a month until properly captioned. That other puppet with a two inch ruler didn't mean very much until I suggested 'inadequacy complex'. This image isn't captioned yet. Won't it be fun to see what the caption would be? The other is license. This one's still under full copyright.

    I'll probably take about five days making up my mind. Of course, if Kurt Weber just happens to write an article during that time--any article--and it happens to get onto Wikipedia's main page at "Did you know", then I'll be impressed. I might even be so impressed that I take down this whole post and give him a barnstar for good sportsmanship.

    Meanwhile, here's Kurt's campaign song.

    And here's my response. Never forget, Kurt, that when you come to this blog you're in my house.

    Monday, December 01, 2008

    A mandate from the community?

    It's a surprise to see the shape of this year's arbitration elections, particularly the voting trends on reelection candidates. It's tough work deciding Wikipedia's most stubborn disputes. And in making those decisions, inevitably some of the people who care about a case will return at election case holding a grudge. But there's a big difference between last year's pattern and this year's.

    In the 2007 elections two former arbitrators sought a return to the Committee. Although neither of them made it, they finished a respectable seventh and eighth in the overall results and tallied solid two-thirds support.

    Support: 233
    Oppose: 125
    Percent support: 65.08%

    Support: 317
    Oppose: 171
    Percent support: 64.96%

    This year three arbitrators are seeking a return. None of them are faring nearly so well. As of this writing here's how the vote is shaping up:

    Charles Matthews
    Support: 21
    Oppose: 108
    Percent support: 16%

    Support: 26
    Oppose: 119
    Percent suport: 18%

    Sam Korn (candidacy withdrawn)
    Support: 56
    Oppose: 54
    Percent support: 51%

    What's even more interesting is to read the rationales for those supports and opposes. A good number of people articulate the desire for change, and it may be significant that the returning candidate who fared best ended his previous term before 2008.

    So maybe it's time to ask if that big gray thing in the corner is an elephant in the room: are these results about the candidates, or are these results an informal referendum on the 2008 Arbitration Committee?

    Look at this string of comments:

    105. Oppose. I see you as the continuity candidate. Skomorokh 01:19, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

    106. Oppose The current ArbCom is a disaster. We don't need more of the same. AniMate 01:47, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

    107. Oppose sitting arbcom member --Random832 (contribs | signing statement) 02:04, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

    108. Oppose. Let's have some fresh faces. --Wetman (talk) 02:28, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

    109. Oppose. It's a change election. --Akhilleus (talk) 03:36, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

    Darkness is the best disinfectant?

    The sun sets on California as this occurs. Was I unfair?

    Sunday, November 30, 2008

    SirFozzie for ArbCom

    This year only one candidate gets my strong support for the Arbitration Committee. Although many are worthy candidates who would make excellent arbitrators (and I've supported quite a few of them), it's worth a few more electrons to share why.

    SirFozzie first came on my radar screen two years ago when I received a request too look into the BooyakaDell RFC. What turned up was that he and few other editors were contending with one of the most destructive vandals in site history. The main account was JB196. To sample the scope of the problem:
    As big as that problem obviously is, the manner of disruption was even more problematic. While most of the other people who were contending with it gave up or fell by the wayside, SirFozzie kept on the ball. His success in that regard might make him underrated now: it earns more kudos to clean up a huge mess than to prevent a spill from turning into a huge problem in the first place. But obviously he was working extremely hard, and not tooting his own horn about it either.

    In two years of firsthand observation SirFozzie has demonstrated uncompromising dedication and integrity across a variety of situations. I have never known him to take an action he didn't believe in, and he neither grants nor asks for favors.

    Most importantly, what has plagued the 2008 arbitration committee has been a lack of willingness to take the bull by the horns. Too many arbitrations have ended with the Committee asking the parties to play nicely together; too many have passed the buck to arbitration enforcement in the form of discretionary sanctions. What's needed is a Harry Truman: someone who gets things accomplished and solves problems. Someone who isn't afraid to be decisive. Someone who values results over popularity.

    SirFozzie and I don't always agree (he edits Wikipedia Review and I don't, for one), but he's a smart fellow and his reasoning holds together. He's here to help the project, not vice versa. SirFozzie has no idea I'm writing this, by the way. He knows my opinion can't be swayed by campaigning--not that he would try. Most of the candidates I've supported this year are doing well. But if only one of them actually gets a seat, it's obvious who I'm rooting for.

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008


    Okay, breaking the promise to womankind about the May Aufderheide biography (well kinda...been taking offsite notes). Overall I'm on semi-wikibreak this month. Broadly defined, that means reducing useful editing to a minimum.

    What else is there in life? Besides Thanksgiving etc. etc?

    Music. Bad music. On Skype and gmail chat a bunch of people have been trading YouTube links to really awful music. There's a strange fascination to this and an impulse to one-down each other. So sharing the highlights...erm, lowlights...of this monumental waste of time.

    Earth Wind, & Fire, "Boogie Wonderland"
    In order to be truly awful a song needs to have a few good points going for it. Quality sound engineering, a chart appearance in at least one country, and video production values. "Boogie Wonderland" is a typical bad song: something that kind of seems tolerable if the first hearing happens during one's third drink at a noisy party. It's got a danceable beat and an infectious melody. The next morning, though, that beat resembles a pounding headache and the melody is still infectious in that other sense of the word. The few lyrics that aren't garbled are inane. Then add those late seventies disco costumes...for a couple of months a whole lot of people had a terrible lapse of taste.

    Yes, the video is contributory copyright infringement (which I would not do on wiki). Most of these links are. If a copyright holder complains I'll delink the darn things. I dare anybody to admit ownership.

    Robert Palmer, I Didn't Mean to Turn You On
    Robert Palmer deserves his own special place in rock 'n roll hell for inventing a music video cliche: models in black minidresses pretending to look like a backup band. It was a little bit witty the first time with Addicted to Love. He also used it here (smaller minidresses this time) and the models don't even try to finger chords on their instruments. The dude used the same gimmick again for Bad Case of Loving You, recycling sets and models. Other artists picked up on the idea and for several years MTV got really boring for heterosexual female viewers. Its last gasp was probably Tone Loc's Wild Thing. The particular touch that makes I Didn't Mean to Turn You On more dreadful than any of the others is its saccharine paean to neoconservative morality: Palmer in a dark business suit pleads innocence surrounded by eleven models, all of whom wear too much makeup and too little clothing. The title phrase juxtaposes against close-ups of the dancers' wriggling backsides. You didn't mean to be a tease, Robert? Yeah, sure.

    Laura Branigan, Gloria
    What's with the hairstyle? Was it a fashion in 1982 to deliberately mimic a unibrow? Just because a singer has a voice doesn't mean a song is any good. The lyrics she doesn't slur seem to be a warning to a friend who's developing schizophrenia, delivered with all the schmaltz and bad judgment of a teenager who thinks she can lecture a buddy out of psychosis. Except Branigan was already in her late twenties when she recorded the thing--which is a bit too old to be forgiven. Please, lady, close your lips and look up 'psychiatrist' in the yellow pages. Extra irritating points for the synthetic mock-trumpets in the final seconds.

    Doobie Brothers, What a Fool Believes
    Gotta hand it to this video for including subtitles. Problem is, they eliminate the good faith extended to misheard lyrics that maybe the real song would make sense. It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to sing and remove all doubt. Pity the radio audience of 1979 as they fled from the frying pan of Earth, Wind & Fire and landed here. Bad hit songs tend to zing around inside the cranium consuming spare brain cells until something else drives them out...usually another bad song. Want to get rid of this one? Well, the only melody that really outdoes What a Fool Believes for moronic relentlessness is It's a Small World.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    Brave new articles

    There are no articles left to conquer.
    - Alexander the Great (the original Greek appears to have been garbled)

    For a while now I've been working on getting twentieth century popular song articles compliant with site policies and the law. That means removing copyrighted lyrics, taking out citations to Angelfire, and excising other things that simply shouldn't be there. Lots to do there because the area is poorly tended. Wikipedia has 16,000 song stubs and an additional 10,000 unassessed song articles, most of which are also stubs.

    This sort of gnome work means removing material. And when an area isn't maintained to normal standards it ends up with well-meaning people who think whatever they see around there is the way things ought to be. So we end up with thousands of stub articles that are almost meaningless.

    Three from 1957:
    You might think that with stuff like that, the site has everything. While taking a break last evening a post from JzG looked interesting:
    Most of the problem is that there are now so few significant topics left to write about that those who lack specialist education or resources have nothing left other than politics and their favourite band to occupy their time here. They come along, want to be significant in this huge edifice, and fail to realise that they missed the boat. Plus many of them are grossly immature and lack any understanding at all of anything other than the mores of their own town. I'd hazard a guess that the vast majority of Wikipedia editors have never left their home country and have no idea at all about the social codes of other nationalities. And the less they know, the more uptight they get about it.
    Ah, he mentions music. Well here's a quick summary of Wikipedia's coverage in the area:
    What's interesting is that coverage really plummets just as things get to public domain--where it's finally okay to republish song lyrics (although I prefer to do so on Wikisource).

    So in order to balance out the karma I've been expanding a few of those stubs into real articles. For example, most people know I'm Just Wild About Harry from the 1955 Warner Brothers short One Froggy Evening, and perhaps recall that it was Harry Truman's presidential campaign song in 1948. Actually the song has a bit more history than that: it was the most popular number from the first successful Broadway musical to have an all African-American cast. And the song broke a major racial taboo. Times have changed so much that few people would guess what that taboo used to be. The article explains that now, although it didn't say much at all before the expansion began.

    The goal with these expansions is like cloud seeding: create examples of what an article should actually look like. Then--with a little time and luck--other editors will expand more articles into pages that convey meaningful information instead of unreferenced regurgitations of when something supposedly charted and names of artists who recorded it. I'm Just Wild About Harry is a foxtrot--one of only four lonely entries at Category:Foxtrots (a major ballroom dance genre and Wikipedia barely touches the subject).

    More than foxtrots, though, I've been working on ragtime. Ragtime dominated North American popular music for a quarter of a century. And ragtime was the basis for jazz. I used to read up on jazz history and get frustrated when the explanations stopped with a gloss about ragtime. So signing off and heading back to the biography of May Aufderheide, the genre's leading female composer. The expansion probably won't take her bio past start class, but I have hopes of raising List of compositions by James Scott to featured list. It was a lot of fun chasing down all that sheet music.

    So to JzG: Wikipedia has enormous gaps and it doesn't take specialized education to start filling a lot of them. Ever tried Google Books?

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Sunday, November 23, 2008

    Lady Catherine de Burgh

    "Elizabeth soon perceived, that though this great lady was not in commission of the peace of the county, she was a most active magistrate in her own parish, the minutest concerns of which were carried to her by Mr. Collins; and whenever any of the cottagers were disposed to be quarrelsome, discontented, or too poor, she sallied forth into the village to settle their differences, silence their complaints, and scold
    them into harmony and plenty." - Jane Austen

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    Support censorship

    Here is a new version of the Birth of Venus you'll need to start using if you're a Botticelli fan and want to share your appreciation of fine art in userspace when a new Wikipedia proposal passes. It takes a few minutes to Photoshop a bikini onto the lady; call it a public service to save others the trouble.

    There's another solution, of course. Head over to Wikipedia:Sexual content to have a look at the proposal firsthand. Then weigh in on it. I can't wait to start on Michelangelo's David...

    Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Kiss me, Kate

    For a change of pace, went over to Wikiversity and started a course in troll sockpuppets. Oddly, the day after course planning began it was already no. 4 on a Google search for "troll sockpuppet". Not sure whether that counts as good or bad.

    So since I'm on semi-wikibreak this month I offered one of the sockpuppets space here to promote the new Wikiversity project. Hamlet, Prince of Trollmark volunteered to do a guest post on this blog. Forgive him if it's a bit over the top; he's a drama sock.
    (Hamlet marches over to this thread and hits 'edit').

    === Statement by Hamlet, Prince of Trollmark ===
    [[Image:Hamlet, Prince of Trollmark.jpg|right|thumb|250px]]
    It wouldn't be November without a fresh episode of Giano v. Arbcom. By all means, accept. ~~~~

    Saturday, October 18, 2008

    A wormy apple for the teacher

    Lately I've been uploading music manuscripts to Commons and setting up texts at Wikisource. It's quite interesting and I'd love to make text pages for them all, but English Wikisource has a policy of hosting only English and several of these manuscripts are rather hard to read, let alone translate.

    The dilemma reminds me of a long-ago episode. You've seen people describe the dedicated teacher who inspired them with love of a subject and gave them direction to do great things in life?

    Frau Winter, my tenth grade German teacher, was not that person. It was Frau Winter who misspelled a vocabulary word and failed to catch her own error until after the test. She explained her mistake as she returned our answer sheets and every one of us who had memorized her instructions had also been marked down. Frau Winter, someday you will meet your maker and when you do the souls of two dozen fifteen-year-olds will howl for justice.

    But until that happens, this post salutes Frau Winter's unforgettable style by grading the great composers

    ...on penmanship.

    Niccolò Paganini
    (displayed at top) is a typical C student. Notice the smudges and the slapdash bars on Dolci d'amor parole. It's legible, but certainly not easy on the eye. Neatness counts, Niccolò. Next time recopy before you turn in your composition if you want a better grade.
    Felix Mendelssohn
    This is just sloppy. The whole top wasted on crossouts, but no margin at the bottom. Don't you keep a ruler at home, Felix, to draw straight lines? Surely Elijah deserves more attention. D.
    Gioachino Rossini
    Not great, but an improvement. The scratchouts prevent Moïse from doing better. I'll give it a B.
    Nikolai Rimsy-Korsakov
    This orchestration of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov is clean, precise, but the lettering is just a little tight. A-.
    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Impressive, but you crowd too much onto one page and those sixteenth notes are shaky. B+. I'll consider raising the grade if you redo this by Tuesday. And try to come up with a better title than Phantasie für eine Orgelwalze, Allegro and Andante in F Minor.
    Franz Liszt
    Those squiggly lines say you didn't think ahead and align your work properly, Franz. B.
    Frédéric Chopin
    Next time turn in your assignment without so many smudge marks. B-.
    Johannes Brahms
    "Vier Lieder für Singstimme und Klavier" has a pleasant look to it, but those lyrics are chicken scratch. C.
    Richard Wagner
    I don't like red ink on the page unless I put it there myself, Richard. Still, this is very well done. That Flying Dutchman of yours sounds like a silly title, though. A-.
    John Philip Sousa
    Now this is what I like to see. Class, come here and look at John's paper. Everything is in neat lines with clean notes and legible lettering. A.
    Ludwig van Beethoven
    Ludwig, Ludwig--what are we going to do with you? You may say this is the fourth movement to Piano Sonata no. 28, but I can barely make out a note of it. You'll never go anyhere with penmanship like this. Go move your things and sit next to John Philip Sousa. I'm writing you up for Saturday detention; come with plenty of paper and pencils. F.