Archive for wiki

New blog, by and about WikiProject Oregon

Posted in Wikipedia, WikiWay with tags , , on May 26, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

I’m very excited to announce that WikiProject Oregon, a loose collection of Wikipedia volunteers who share an interest in Oregon, has just started its own blog:

Our first post gives some background and advice on how to publish a photo on Wikipedia; future topics may
include highlighting some of the better articles and photos about Oregon, sharing techniques for researching Oregon history, and calls for help in areas that aren’t covered too well yet.

I hope you’ll check it out — at least those of you in Oregon!

(Please post any comments in the first thread over there.)

Advertisements What’s wrong with this picture?

Posted in open government, politics with tags , , , , on May 22, 2008 by Pete Forsyth
screen capture of SB10 pageSenate bill error message

There’s all kinds of good info on Oregon’s official web site, right? Yes, there is. But can you find it? How about your grandmother, or your grandson? How about the web searcher’s best friend, Google — can it manage to index the info so it shows up in searches? Is it easy to cite in a Wikipedia article? Can I, a blogger, even show you, my readers, where it is?

The answer to all these questions is, essentially, “no.”

Take, for instance, the summary page for Senate Bill 10, mentioned here in an earlier blog post. I would have liked to link’s overview page on the bill, so you could learn about the bill yourself. It has lots of links to various versions of the bill, amendments, the minority report, etc. (See screen capture above.) But I wasn’t able to link to it; the page that showed up when I simply copied the page’s address was an error message.

If you want to see the page below (after the jump), you’ll have to go through most of the same steps I did: go to, navigate to the legislative page, find the search box, and then enter “Senate Bill”, “10”, and “2007 session” into it.

So, pop quiz: in the year 2008, what’s wrong with this picture? No, strike that. How many things that couldn’t be addressed by a reasonably technical high school student, for a few hundred bucks, are wrong with this picture?

Here’s the page I’d have liked to be able to link to: Continue reading

Anonymity and public service

Posted in open government, politics, Wikipedia, WikiWay with tags , , on May 14, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

I’m just back from RecentChangesCamp 2008, a conference and networking event for people who work with wiki software and communities. When you get a bunch of smart people together, you get new ideas; this post will be the first of several exploring the ideas I came away with. -Pete

Anonymous suitIn a democratic society, it seems natural that decision makers should be forthcoming about who they are, so that the society as a whole can draw its own conclusions about their motivations, possible conflicts of interest, and general suitability for decision-making. We see this value reflected in laws about public service; for example, a recent extension of Oregon’s ethics laws (SB 10 of 2007) has attracted a great deal of attention. Public officials — even volunteers — are expected to disclose not only their names, but often their business affiliations and other personal information, to the public whose lives they stand to impact.

In many public forums, though, anonymity is commonplace. Talk radio callers, bloggers and blog commenters, and contributors to projects like Wikipedia are often completely anonymous; or, if they disclose any information about themselves, it often can’t be verified.

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What is BarCamp?

Posted in WikiWay with tags , on May 3, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

the scheduleOne of the most inspiring things I did last year was attend BarCamp Portland, and it’s here again this weekend.

BarCamp is essentially a conference without an agenda. A bunch of smart people get together for the weekend, spend a while Friday sticking post-it notes on a blank wall, and build their own schedule. Have a skill to share? Teach a class! Have a tough question to hash out? Host a discussion!

BarCamp is clearly born of the tech community. It has a wiki for session planning. Participants are encouraged to share their Twitter and blog addresses. Sponsors are a virtual “who’s who” of Portland tech startups.

But it would be a mistake to think the conference is “about” technology, or that you have to be a tech geek to get something good out of it. One of the first things I noticed last night was the number of women in attendance: as a rough guess, I’d say women jumped from about 10% to 30% of of the group since last year. Events on the schedule include “stitch and bitch,” “bikes and geeks,” and a session for DJs.

For me, the most promising aspect of BarCamp is the opportunity to explore new methods of collaboration. No group is more dedicated to removing the barriers to effective collaboration than computer geeks; an environment that invites them to consider and practice this stuff with a wider audience brings all kinds of good things.

On Sunday morning (10:00), I’ll be hosting a discussion that’s closely related to this blog: What’s the matter with democracy? How can the Internet-enabled world participate in developing a solution?

If you’re intrigued by BarCamp but can’t make it, WikiWednesday is a similar event that takes place once a month; also, this event this coming Tuesday looks promising.

Republishing Wikipedia content, revisited

Posted in Wikipedia with tags , on April 22, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

In response to my earlier blog post, Word theft and feedback loops, I received an interesting phone call from Josh, the owner of the book publishing company Biographiq.

Josh was concerned about the views expressed here and elsewhere, that his company was violating either the law or ethical principles in the way it republishes Wikipedia content. I was impressed with his desire to meet the concerns head-on, and express the measures he’s taken to ensure he’s complying with the law and respecting the Wikipedia community.

However, my concerns about the company’s practices remain.

Josh made several points worth exploring:

Company getting in trouble for publishing Oregon laws on web?!

Posted in open government with tags , , , , on April 21, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

The Legislative Counsel (basically the legal arm of the Legislature) has sent “cease and desist” letters to a couple web sites that republish the Oregon Revised Statutes. (links to correspondence)

The text of Oregon’s laws, having been written by the people or their elected representatives, are in the public domain. I think this much is beyond dispute.

But the Oregon Revised Statutes, a written record of those laws, is apparently under copyright by the State of Oregon. What does that mean? The formatting, the headings, etc. are copyright, but the underlying text is not. Or at least, that’s the best I can discern.

It’s disturbing that our elected government should be expending resources defending its purported ownership over something we collectively produced. I’ve explored this concept a little more thoroughly over here, and several of us hope to get the Legislature to take some action next session.

It’s good to see that allies are emerging, and I hope to learn more about Justia and

Presentation to Oregon Encyclopedia editors

Posted in Uncategorized, Wikipedia, WikiWay with tags , , on April 17, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

On Friday, I was one of three Wikipedia editors to make a presentation to the editors-in-chief of the Oregon Encyclopedia. About two months in the making (see my previous posts), this was a valuable opportunity to learn more about what they hope to accomplish, and to present the strengths of the Wikipedia project and, especially, of WikiProject Oregon. Everybody in the room shared an interest in providing better information about Oregon to a wider audience, and discussing our differing approaches led to some interesting conversation.

We addressed several subject: Jason got us started with some discussion of the differences between Wikipedia and wiki software, and an exploration of the software and technology. I then talked about the community aspects of Wikipedia, and the opportunity to work with other editors to expand our knowledge of Oregon history as we collaborate on improving articles. Steven wrapped up by delving into some of the things that make Wikipedia unique – the procedures for evaluating articles, making decisions, etc. We had some time left for questions and discussion.
Continue reading