(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Wikipedia

“My fake plants died because I didn’t pretend to water them”*…

Your correspondent treasures Wikipedia, and uses it often. But as Marco Silva points out, it has its vulnerabilities…

“I read through Wikipedia a lot when I’m bored in class,” says Adam, aged 15, who studies photography and ICT at a school in Kent. One day last July, one of his teachers mentioned the online encyclopaedia’s entry about Alan MacMasters, who it said was a Scottish scientist from the late 1800s and had invented “the first electric bread toaster”.

At the top of the page was a picture of a man with a pronounced quiff and long sideburns, gazing contemplatively into the distance – apparently a relic of the 19th Century, the photograph appeared to have been torn at the bottom.

But Adam was suspicious. “It didn’t look like a normal photo,” he tells me. “It looked like it was edited.”

After he went home, he decided to post about his suspicions on a forum devoted to Wikipedia vandalism.

Until recently, if you had searched for “Alan MacMasters” on Wikipedia, you would have found the same article that Adam did. And who would have doubted it?

After all, like most Wikipedia articles, this one was peppered with references: news articles, books and websites that supposedly provided evidence of MacMasters’ life and legacy. As a result, lots of people accepted that MacMasters had been real.

More than a dozen books, published in various languages, named him as the inventor of the toaster. And, until recently, even the Scottish government’s Brand Scotland website listed the electric toaster as an example of the nation’s “innovative and inventive spirit”…

All the while, as the world got to know the supposed Scottish inventor, there was someone in London who could not avoid a smirk as the name “Alan MacMasters” popped up – again and again – on his screen…

For more than a decade, a prankster spun a web of deception about the inventor of the electric toaster: “Alan MacMasters: How the great online toaster hoax was exposed,” from @MarcoLSilva at @BBCNews.

* Mitch Hedberg

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As we consider the source’s source, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that Atari introduced its first product, Pong, which became the world’s first commercially successful video game. Indeed, Pong sparked the beginning of the video game industry, and positioned Atari as its leader (in both arcade and home video gaming) through the early 1980s.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 29, 2022 at 1:00 am

“May all beings have happy minds”*…

But then it’s important to be careful as to how we look for that happiness…

– Games where players either remove pieces from a pile or add pieces to it, with the loser being the one who causes the heap to shake (similar to the modern game pick-up sticks)

– Games of throwing dice

– Ball games

– Guessing a friend’s thoughts

Just a few of the entries in “List of games that Buddha would not play,” from the T. W. Rhys Davids‘ translation of the Brahmajāla Sutta (though the list is duplicated in a number of other early Buddhist texts, including the Vinaya Pitaka).

(TotH to Scott Alexander; image above: source)

* the Buddha

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As we endeavor for enlightenment, we might recall that it was on this date in 2001 that Wikipedia was born. A free online encyclopedia that is collaboratively edited by volunteers, it has grown to be the world’s largest reference website, attracting 1.7 billion unique-device visitors monthly as of November 2021. As of January 9, 2022, it has more than fifty-eight million articles in more than 300 languages, including 6,436,030 articles in English (serving 42,848,899 active users of English Wikipedia), with 118,074 active contributors in the past month.

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“This page contains material that is kept because it is considered humorous. It is not meant to be taken seriously.”*…

 

800px-Cow-on_pole,_with_antlers

A cow with antlers atop a pole. Wikipedia contains other images and articles that are similarly shocking or udderly amoosing.

 

Of the over six million articles in the English Wikipedia there are some articles that Wikipedians have identified as being somewhat unusual. These articles are verifiable, valuable contributions to the encyclopedia, but are a bit odd, whimsical, or something one would not expect to find in Encyclopædia Britannica. We should take special care to meet the highest standards of an encyclopedia with these articles lest they make Wikipedia appear idiosyncratic. If you wish to add an article to this list, the article in question should preferably meet one or more of these criteria:

  • The article is something a reasonable person would not expect to find in a standard encyclopedia.
  • The subject is a highly unusual combination of concepts, such as cosmic latte, death from laughter, etc.
  • The subject is a clear anomaly—something that defies common sense, common expectations or common knowledge, such as Bir Tawil, Märket, Phineas Gage, Snow in Florida, etc.
  • The subject is well-documented for unexpected notoriety or an unplanned cult following at extreme levels, such as Ampelmännchen or All your base are belong to us.
  • The subject is a notorious hoax, such as the Sokal affair or Mary Toft.
  • The subject might be found amusing, though serious.
  • The subject is distinct amongst other similar ones.
  • The article is a list or collection of articles or subjects meeting the criteria above.

This definition is not precise or absolute; some articles could still be considered unusual even if they do not fit these guidelines.

To keep the list of interest to readers, each entry on this list should be an article on its own (not merely a section in a less unusual article) and of decent quality, and in large meeting Wikipedia’s manual of style. For unusual contributions that are of greater levity, see Wikipedia:Silly Things.

At once a delineation of the frontiers of canonical (vs. valuable but off-beat) knowledge and a rabbit hole down which it’s eminently amusing to descend: “Wikipedia:Unusual articles

* Notice atop the Wikipedia page “Wikipedia:Unusual articles

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As we forage on the fringe, we might recall that it was on this date in 1975 that then-27-year-old director Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel Jaws premiered.  Released “wide” (to 500 theaters at once, as opposed to rolling out in a few theaters first, as was then customary) and backed by a (then substantial) $700,000 marketing campaign, Jaws grossed $7 million in its opening weekend (on its way to over $450 million worldwide).  Prior to Spielberg’s triumph, summer had been the studios’ dumping ground for their weaker films; Jaws ushered in the era of the summer blockbuster.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 20, 2020 at 1:01 am

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things”*…

 

Wikipedia

 

Even in so-called “normal” times, Wikipedia is a tremendous resource and a reminder that the internet doesn’t have to be terrible. Launched in January 2001, the now massive online encyclopedia, which can still be edited by anyone and remains an ad-free nonprofit, provides easy access to information to people who need answers to some of life’s most important, challenging, and difficult questions. It’s also still a great way to kill a few hours.

With so many people stuck indoors and looking for ways to pass the time during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there’s never been a better time to brush up on some classic strange Wikipedia articles and perhaps discover a new bizarre favorite. You might not have the willpower required to write your own version of King Lear while in lockdown, but you definitely have the energy to skim this “List of titles of works taken from Shakespeare.” From pro wrestling drama and mythical creatures to disastrous roller-skate musicals and unsolved hijacking mysteries, these are some of our favorite Wiki wormholes…

Can one ever know too much about too little?  For your sheltered-at-home amusement: “10 Outrageous Wikipedia Articles That Will Send You Down a Rabbit Hole.”

* Lewis Carroll, “The Walrus and the Carpenter”

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As we dig digging, we might recall that it was on this date in 2010 that, thanks to a massive Facebook campaign by her fans, Saturday Night Live announced that Betty White would host the May 8 show that year– which she did, becoming, at 88, the oldest host in the show’s history.  Lorne Michaels and the production staff were sufficiently concerned about her age that they had Tina Fey, Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch and Amy Poehler on standby to replace her; White went on to appear in every sketch… and won an Emmy for her performance.

C.F. Wikipedia’s “List of Saturday Night hosts.”

200px-BettyWhiteJune09 source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 8, 2020 at 1:01 am

“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act”*…

 

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For years, the Internet Archive has been acquiring books (their goal is every book ever published) and warehousing them and scanning them. Now, these books are being “woven into Wikipedia” with a new tool that automatically links every Wikipedia citation to a print source to the exact page and passage from the book itself, which can be read on the Internet Archive.

Citations to print materials are both a huge potential strength and weakness for Wikipedia: a strength because there’s so much high-quality, authoritative information in print; and a weakness because people can make up (or discount) print citations and bamboozle other Wikipedians who can’t see the books in question to debate their content, context, or whether they should be included at all.

Archive founder Brewster Kahle kicked off the initiative after a discussion with Wikimedia’s executive director Katherine Maher, who was “worried that truth might fracture.”

Wikipedia is a key battleground in the war against disinformation, and the Internet Archive’s measures — which were presented to Congressional staffers yesterday — are a huge advance on the state of the art.

“I want this,” said Brewster Kahle’s neighbor Carmen Steele, age 15, “at school I am allowed to start with Wikipedia, but I need to quote the original books. This allows me to do this even in the middle of the night.”

For example, the Wikipedia article on Martin Luther King, Jr cites the book To Redeem the Soul of America, by Adam Fairclough. That citation now links directly to page 299 inside the digital version of the book provided by the Internet Archive. There are 66 cited and linked books on that article alone.

Readers can see a couple of pages to preview the book and, if they want to read further, they can borrow the digital copy using Controlled Digital Lending in a way that’s analogous to how they borrow physical books from their local library.

Via Boing Boing: “The Internet Archive’s massive repository of scanned books will help Wikipedia fight the disinformation wars“; for more details, read The Internet Archive’s announcement here.

“Together we can achieve Universal Access to All Knowledge, said, one linked book, paper, web page, news article, music file, video and image at a time.”

– Mark Graham, Director of the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine

* George Orwell

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As we accelerate access, we might send insightfully-humorous birthday greetings to William Penn Adair Rogers; he was born on this date in 1879.  A stage and motion picture actor, vaudeville performer, cowboy, humorist, newspaper columnist, and social commentator, he he traveled around the world three times, made 71 films (50 silent films and 21 “talkies”), and wrote more than 4,000 nationally syndicated newspaper columns.  By the mid-1930s Rogers was hugely popular in the United States, its leading political wit and the highest paid of Hollywood film stars.  He died in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post when their small airplane crashed in northern Alaska.

Known as “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son,” Rogers was a Cherokee citizen, born to a Cherokee family in Indian Territory (now part of Oklahoma).

“I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat.”- Will Rogers

220px-Will_Rogers_1922 source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 4, 2019 at 1:01 am

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