How to Use Wikipedia When You’re Watching the Olympics

What you need to know if you plan to use Wikipedia’s information as a second screen (like we all will).

Riddle me this: Michael Phelps came in first. Simone Biles was second. Aly Raisman and Katie Ledecky were fifth and sixth, respectively. Hint: The answer is not medal counts. Nor is it G.O.A.T. athlete status. Nope, those were the rankings of the most visited pages on English Wikipedia for the week of Aug. 7, 2016, during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Phelps’ page received the most traffic that week with more than 5.4 million page views while Biles, Raisman, and Ledecky received more than 4.25 million page views, collectively.

On Friday, and despite much controversy, the delayed Tokyo Olympic Games officially opened. Although some aspects will be quite different—like the fact that the venues are largely without spectators—there will be similar opportunities to engage with the Games via the internet. Once again, millions of people are expected to consult the free Wikipedia biographies available for the athletes.

Even if you don’t visit Wikipedia directly, information from the internet encyclopedia filters out to the broader internet. Googling “Simone Biles” reveals a Google Knowledge panel that is sourced directly from Wikipedia. Likewise, asking Alexa about Biles will prompt the smart speaker to read a summary from her Wikipedia page. In other words, these Big Tech companies are serving up Wikipedia’s free info with the same relentless consistency that NBC blasts the “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” before commercials.

But what should readers know if they’re accessing Wikipedia as a second screen during the Olympic Games?

>> Continue reading my latest article for Slate, published today

In the spirit of the Olympic games… a race!

If you haven’t yet preordered a copy of Infodemic, you can do so over at Inkshares. If you’re one of the next ten people to preorder this book, then I will ship you an autographed copy when the book is published in 2022. Just make sure to send me the order confirmation email afterwards for my records. Preorder your copy of Infodemic today.

🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇🥇

Wikipedia's War on the Daily Mail

Wikipedians are willing to reject newspapers that flagrantly disregard the truth—even if those publications are otherwise popular

Sometimes (a lot of times?) the internal politics of Wikipedia mirrors its real-world counterparts. In January 2017, the United Kingdom House of Commons launched a parliamentary inquiry into the “growing phenomenon of fake news.” The chairman behind the inquiry expressed concern about the effect of fabricated news stories on democracy, particularly the influence on voters in the recent United States election.

That same month, the English Wikipedia user Hillbillyholiday launched a “Request for comment” about the Daily Mail, a top-selling British tabloid newspaper. Volunteer Wikipedia editors argued that the Daily Mail had made a habit of spreading misinformation, referencing the paper’s then-recent sanctions from the International Press Standards Organisation for violating professional norms for accuracy. After an extended discussion process, the Wikipedia editing community decided that the Daily Mail was a “generally unreliable” source that should not be used on Wikipedia. Going forward, any user who attempted to cite the tabloid on a Wikipedia page would receive a warning and a request to cite a more reliable publication.

At the time, Wikipedia’s judgment about the Daily Mail generated a significant amount of media attention, especially in the British press. The Timesthe Guardian, and the HuffPost U.K. all reported on the unprecedented ban. Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales, a British citizen since 2019, agreed with the Wikipedia community’s decision, noting that the Daily Mail had mastered the art of running false clickbait stories. Meanwhile the Daily Mail punched back at Wikipedia with an inflammatory article attacking both the site’s individual volunteers and the project as a whole.

The Wikipedia community upheld its decision regarding the Daily Mail in 2018, and since then, there has been a lot less coverage about the site’s relationship with the newspaper. Based on an archived version of Wikipedia from Jan. 1, 2017, there were at that point more than 30,000 articles using the Daily Mail as a reference. Earlier this month, a Reddit user posted that Wikipedia was now down to fewer than 10,000 uses of the Daily Mail as a source. “As far as I can tell, there’s been no journalistic interest in these basic issues of why Wikipedia editors make the decisions they do, and how they give effect to them, despite the fact the announcement of the ban was basically worldwide news,” wrote Reddit user ronsmith7.

Well, ronsmith7, today is your lucky day because this journalist is interested in those issues. The Wikipedia community’s deprecation of the Daily Mail shows that the project’s volunteers are unwilling to accept that all publications are equally reliable. Moreover, Wikipedians are willing to reject newspapers that flagrantly disregard the truth—even if those publications are otherwise popular.

⟩⟩ Continue reading my latest story for Slate

I also wanted to send an update on the status of Infodemic, one of three winners in the 2020 Inkshares contest, and scheduled for publication next year. I have now finished working on the manuscript with an outside editor, the talented and lovely Michele Abramowitz. 

As of Friday, I have passed the manuscript onto the Inkshares team and am awaiting the next steps. Thanks again to everyone who has preordered a copy of the novel or otherwise supported this book throughout 2020/2021.

All the best,
Stephen

Fake Reddit Post Starts Serious Debate About Video Game Accessibility | Silicon Values

Disability law in the U.S. is so outdated that there’s very little clarity when it comes to digital accessibility.

The subreddit r/legaladvice is supposed to be Reddit’s space to ask simple legal questions. That’s why so many of the threads revolve around subjects like taxes, housing, employment, or family law—common issues where the legal framework has gradually developed over a long period of time. But every once in a while, somebody posts a legal question that energizes the Reddit community with its seeming pathos and originality.

That was the case recently when a user going by the name poelegalthrowaway00 posted a question describing unique challenges that they faced with the video game Path of Exile, a hugely popular action role-playing game set in the dark fantasy world of Wraeclast. The user wrote:

I can’t use one hand and some fingers on the other after an industrial accident. I do things on the computer using mouse and 3 foot pedals. I play this game called Path of Exile, and in the game you need to refresh 4 potion buffs every 3-8 seconds. I physically can’t press 4 keys every few seconds so I use a macro that automatically does it for me.

The poster described the macro as a workaround to help with their physical disability and claimed “I literally physically can’t play without it.” The poster alleged that they had been banned by Path of Exile because the video game’s terms of service prohibit the use of automated software or bots to assist with game play. Moreover, the poster said that they had contacted the video game publisher and that the company had denied their request for a special accommodation. The question posed to the r/legaladvice community, then, was whether the poster could bring a successful legal case under relevant disability law.

Continue Reading My Latest Article for Slate

My latest story features legal and video game insights from:

  • Blake Reid & Doron Dorfman, professors of technology policy and disability law

  • Fredrick Brennan, founder of 8chan

  • Thomas Reddin, a partner at the law firm of Norton Rose Fulbright

Thanks to them! Twitter link here.


Book Notes: Silicon Values

I reviewed Jillian York’s book Silicon Values, which reveals how major tech platforms have struggled with issues of content moderation and censorship. York's coverage is especially strong when discussing the Middle East, exposing how Silicon Valley has allied itself with the powers-that-be to benefit the corporate bottom line even at the cost of repressing free expression in the region. Because York has been covering content moderation for so long, she was able to include several historical examples that illustrate how social media companies often take an ad hoc approach. At times, I wished York could include more characterizing details about the leaders in Silicon Valley, including Nicole “The Decider” Wong, who served as Google’s assistant general counsel. But most of all, I was impressed by how York consistently argued the case in favor of free expression over censorship.

Infodemic

Want to learn more about my forthcoming novel? Make sure to follow Infodemic on the Inkshares platform

Book Contest Update | The Tensions Behind Wikipedia's Code of Conduct

Plus: INFODEMIC is "War & Peace on an internet encyclopedia."

The Tensions Behind Wikipedia’s Code of Conduct

March 2, 2021

Last month Molly White, age 27, received yet another creepy message: “We have three people who are going to be taking a tour [of your apartment] and looking at it, but you will not know who they are because we wont [sic] disclose that ahead of time, just know that when they do they will be wearing a hidden camera and we will be sharing the deets.” For White, the threat was one more example of the harassment she has received because she is one of Wikipedia’s most prolific female contributors.

Curbing malicious behavior is one goal of the Wikimedia Foundation’s new “Universal Code of Conduct,” which applies to Wikipedia’s many language editions and related projects. The code, which was released Feb. 2, enshrines concepts such as mutual respect and civility, and makes clear that harassment, abuse of power, and content vandalism are unacceptable. According to the foundation, more than 1,500 Wikipedia volunteers representing five continents and 30 languages participated in the creation of the new code.

>> Continue reading my latest story for Slate


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In other news…

On Feb. 28, my novel INFODEMIC placed second in the 2020 Inkshares All Genre Contest! The book finished number 2 out of 383 entrants, which means that the novel will be published. I’m very grateful to all of the readers who read the sample chapters, pre-ordered a copy, or posted a review.

One friendly reviewer described Infodemic as “War & Peace on an internet encyclopedia.” I have not yet read Leo Tolstoy’s 1200 page magnum opus and am considering braving it. Drop me a note if you’ve read War & Peace and want to share your thoughts.

Here is a bit more information on the rest of the publication process for the novel.

WHEN WILL YOU GET YOUR BOOK?
Inkshares estimates that the publishing process takes at least nine months. A few books have been delayed due to COVID-19. I will keep you posted. In the meantime, I will be working with a team of professionals on the manuscript itself as well as the marketing to give Infodemic the best launch possible. Also, Inkshares is known for securing audiobook/film/TV deals for its properties, and I’m certainly excited about that possibility.

HOW CAN YOU CONTINUE TO HELP? 
Infodemic can continue to take pre-orders, which will help with hitting bestseller and other industry benchmarks. Tell your friends to reserve their copy on the Infodemic book page.

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To my fellow Texas friends, wishing you peace and security as we recover from the recent storm. As some colleagues at Slate recently put it, “Texans can’t catch a break.”

Best regards,

Stephen

Depths of Wikipedia

My favorite Instagram account acknowledges the simple truth: Wikipedia is weird.

Before we get started, a reminder to please check out my forthcoming novel Infodemic. You can support the project by preordering a copy and nominating the book using the button on the Inkshares page.

Anyone who preorders or nominates the book this week will receive special access to the Infodemic music playlist on Spotify. Listen to the songs that inspired the writing.
😎

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Depths of Wikipedia

Since I’ve stumbled into the Wikipedia journalism beat, readers have been sending me their favorite Wikipedia findings. Please continue doing this! It’s fun!

Many of these findings come from Depths of Wikipedia, an Instagram account run by Annie Rauwerda dedicated to obscure and quirky entries on the internet encyclopedia.

For your reading pleasure, here are five of my favorite posts featured on Depths of Wikipedia. May these bring a smile to your face on what is sure to be a frigid weekend across most of the United States!

  1. Chess on a really big board

A post shared by Wikipedia is weird! (@depthsofwikipedia)

Macro chess? No way. I’ve got a much better name for it. - Ralph Betza, inventor of “Chess on a really big board”

  1. Personal Life

A post shared by Wikipedia is weird! (@depthsofwikipedia)

Nice! Concise!

  1. What about the bird?

A post shared by Wikipedia is weird! (@depthsofwikipedia)

Literally 💀

  1. The Popemobile

A post shared by Wikipedia is weird! (@depthsofwikipedia)

The term might be “undignified” but the “Popemobile” Wikipedia entry is pretty great.

1. Umarell

A post shared by Wikipedia is weird! (@depthsofwikipedia)

This is everybody’s dream, am I right?

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Stay safe and warm this weekend!

Best regards,
Stephen

Support Infodemic on Inkshares

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