Sunday, January 25, 2015

#Wikipedia - Khaled Idris Bahray a victim of terrorism is to be forgotten II

The good news is, Mr Idris Bahray is not a victim of terrorism. He is dead nonetheless. Mr Idris Bahray was apparently killed by his roommate.

When you read the article in Der Spiegel, you will read that he died in an area where swastikas are painted, with an unresponsive police according to the Wikipedia articles. It is a grim atmosphere were "us and them" thinking prevails.

Such an atmosphere exists not only in Germany, it can be found in so many places including the Netherlands where I live. People are afraid. They are afraid on both sides. It is what terrorism does and intends to do. As a result people are looked at and treated as if they are the enemy. It is done by "us and them" and both sided feel justified in their fear and anger.

Mr Idris Bahray died in Germany, he was not murdered by a terrorist. As we are all terrorised, Mr Idis Bahray's death got the attention it did get.

#Wikidata - Piet van der Sanden MP

Mr van der Sanden died. He was a member of the Dutch parliament and, he was both a journalist and a politician. His relevance was mostly in politics and not in journalism.

Adding a date of death is easy. Given that "member of parliament" is mostly used as a meta value, it is obvious that it should be taken away. Adding a new item for "member of the Dutch parliament" is easy as well.

The descriptions I will not touch with a bargepole. For Mr van der Sanden it is not wrong but it is not complete and it will always be in need of more finetuning. It is the one aspect of Wikidata that is without hope of it ever being good enough. Compare the difference with automated descriptions..

Friday, January 23, 2015

#Wikidata - John Wayne Mason and stress

Mr Mason died March 4, 2014. He is one of many who died in 2014 that have not been registered yet. Currently there are 755 people whose death in 2014 is waiting for inclusion in Wikidata.

All these people are notable; they have a Wikipedia article. Mr Mason is notable because he published significantly on the subject of stress. His contribution to the understanding of stress was that the psychological and emotional state of the subjects under study required more careful attention.

You can relieve my stress by registering the deaths of these people. You can find them here.

PS as far as I am aware we do not register what people were relevant for, on what subject(s) they published.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

#Wikidata - a year in numbers

The Wikidata dumps are finally available, Magnus did run his job so we have new statistics for Wikidata.

As we have the statistics for all of 2015, we know how much Wikidata has changed. The two most relevant indicators are labels and statements.

It is great to notice how many items have more than 5 labels. It is great to notice that we have few items with no labels; it is a constant struggle to keep it that way. Amir does a great job.

Statements are doing fine. Many more have been made. The number of items with no statement fell by 15.92%.The number of items with more than 10 statements more than doubled and the high end of this table has increased considerably as well.

It is obvious that in the last year, Wikidata became considerably more relevant.When you have used a tool like Reasonator for a long time, this is obvious. It will be interesting to see what 2015 will bring us in new functionality and data. Wikidata is like Wikipedia in its early days; interesting and showing promise. It is very much in need for collaboration to expose the parts where a Wikipedia does not reach.

#Wikipedia - Khaled Idris Bahray a victim of terrorism is to be forgotten

In #Dresden they protest against #Islam. In Dresden they killed Khaled Idris Bahray because he was clearly a foreigner and a muslim at that. As a consequence of his death people are terrorised. They are terrorised because they fear for their life and they have every reason to fear for their life.

Many people assume that their right to freedom of speech is paramount and a death like the one of Mr Idris Bahray is inconvenient and a side issue. Their point of view prohibits them to realise how people are terrorised by people they share this point of view with.

I would be totally ashamed, I find it extremely regrettable that some suggested for the German article is to be deleted. They quote a relevant rule as their argument. Wikipedia was about "Ignore all rules". This is certainly one moment to do just that and keep the article.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

#Wikipedia is #teamwork. That is why we need more #women

#Diversity is a top priority at the Wikimedia Foundation and, rightly so. The argument used is typically more women will ensure more information that is of interest to women. Often it is said that it will improve our community because it will make it more balanced.

The New York times provides a different argument that is equally compelling. It reports on research on intelligent groups. It is part of long running research and the findings of what makes a great group are really relevant:
  • a group works well with equal input from all members
  • members are adept at reading emotions
  • women outperform men
As a consequence it is obvious that any and all male chauvinists that abuse women are a serious liability. The argument that they are used to sexist banter is no excuse, it has nothing to do with freedom of expression and everything with abuse.

Wikipedia and the collaboration on all of its sister projects relies on groups working together bringing us the best possible results. Clearly we want to have everybody on board. Social interaction is a vital ingredient for the best results and that needs more attention. There are technical and social consequences of this research that we need to figure out and, last but not least, we need more women.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

#Wikipedia - #Signpost ... Citation needed ... REALLY ?

It is shocking and awful to find such drivel in a publication like the Signpost in "Featured content". A reaction like "Citation needed" is not appreciating how wrong it is and on how many levels it detracts from the English Wikipedia.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

#Wikidata - my #bias and two articles about #diversity

As a volunteer, I spend a great amount of time making Wikidata more informative. With currently 1,896,739 edits, it is obvious that I use tools.

What I am looking for in tools is that I can use them. They do not have to be scientific, they just have to be functional. It means that I can use it at home or wherever I happen to be on any computer.

At this time there are two tools for querying Wikidata. One provides us with near real time data and the other has huge prerequisites. It is however the preferred option by people with a scientific bend.

Both approaches have been used to write about diversity. Their outcome is similar. However, I am biased towards the tool that is available to me. If I wanted to, I could run the same queries and will have have similar results. Results that will be different because of the time that has passed.

The other tool requires huge investments of me and it will only provide me with static data. Maybe the results are the same and very scientific but it will not help me improve Wikidata, it is therefore of no use to me. It reflects on data from the past. It does not compare data from the present with data I have elsewhere.

On this blog I did mention gender ratios like the two publications do. My issue with all that information is that it misses on one thing; how Wikidata is becoming more informative about diversity. As it is becoming more informative, it becomes also more useful as a tool to look at diversity in Wikipedia in the past.

#Wikidata - a #disambiguation best practice: Mr Bob Boyd

Mr Bob Boyd died. At some time they all do. As you can see several of them already did. What you see is in Finnish. This example of disambiguation could have been in any language.

That is very much the point. With Reasonator we disambiguate in any language.

We can when we ignore the effort that goes in adding descriptions. Many of these descriptions are out of date, incomplete or just not available. I do not fix descriptions; I prefer to fix automated descriptions. I do this by adding missing statements. In this way the automated description is fixed in any language.

When people add descriptions with a bot, they could have added statements in stead. It would have been useful and when all the effort had gone into adding statements, Wikidata would be in much better shape.

As it is, there is no convincing argument for having fixed descriptions. They suck. They are mono-lingual where Wikidata is not.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

#Wikimedia has more #money to achieve more #resultus

The latest fundraiser was a success. It raised all the money needed and then some. The public entrusted us with all this money and the question is now what are we going to do with it all and how.

As a movement we have a mission. This mission is to share in the sum of all knowledge. Our track record is stellar. Never before in history has so little money achieved so much. This is a documented fact; no discussion is needed. We did not achieve our mission fully; no discussion is needed about that either. Wikipedia Zero is just one of our initiatives to achieve more, Kiwix is another.

We are entrusted with all this money. We can put the money to use or put it in a bank. When we are to put in to use, we have to trust that it is spend wisely. The current model is very much one of a benevolent central deity that knows best for all of us. It provides money in a miserly way. It does not trust for the money to be spend wisely; it requires huge amounts of paperwork, reporting. Just as if we are all in business and if business procedures will necessarily produce the best results to achieve our mission.

We have chapters, they are member organisations of Wikimedians. The chapters are accountable to its members. All Wikimedia organisations share the same objective. The chapters are burdened by the requirement of producing reports. Reports that serve little purpose but to satisfy central command. A burden that seriously impacts the effectiveness of the money spend. It is to "prove" that money is spend wisely and effectively.  It results in projects that neatly fit a "best practices" pattern. It does not really allow for experiments, it does seriously hamper potential projects.

It shows how a lack of trust kills us as a movement. It prevents us to use all of our talents, it has us occupied with drudgery.

The alternative is to share the money of this windfall that is the extra money that was raised in the fundraiser with an instruction to the chapters to do good. They can spend it on local projects, on local initiatives. It will certainly be more effective than the current money distribution mechanism. It is not able to cope under the strain of too many requests. Sharing in our excess of wealth will be more effective because in this way more money will be used to achieve our mission.

We should have faith because of our past performance and spend all the money that has been entrusted to us. That is how we shine.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Two #muslims died in France.. Hundreds died in #Nigeria, many more are terrorised world wide

Two muslims, one of them a police officer and one of them an employee of Charlie Hebdo died in an act of terrorism in France. After this major incident by a few deranged men the almost universal mistake is made that these perpetrators represent Islam. They do not.

In Nigeria hundreds of people have been killed by extremists that call themselves Boko Haram. Rumours have it that there may have been thousands of people who died. Apparently this is not a major incident. How can it be when you judge it by the amount of attention it gets. These Boko Haram pretend to represent Islam. They do not.

In the mean time in Amsterdam, men and women going home from work were abused, threatened, even terrorised. Abused, threatened and terrorised by people who pretend to represent western civilisation. I prefer to pretend that they do not. You can read all about this and similar incidents on Facebook and in the history books.

People persist in the mistake that terrorists represent Islam. They persist while they have been invited to learn more about what Islam is really about. It is ever so easy to learn Islam. So many muslims live in every country that it is impossible not to find a local face, a local voice that speaks for an Islam that is starkly different from the travesty called Islam by terrorists.

When you consider Wikipedia its information is not nearly enough to learn the true diversity that is in Islam, its past and its present. It is at times like this that this lack of information is damaging us all.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

#Diversity - Mrs Bess Meyerson

Mrs Meyerson, was a beauty; the kind that wins the title of Miss America in 1945. She had brains too and went to university at Columbia University. According to the article about her she was a "an American model, television actress, politician, and civil rights activist".

She was more than just a pretty face. She refused to use a pseudonym; she was proud to be jewish. When she became Miss America, five sponsors withdrew from having her represent their companies as Miss America. At the time people were emerging from the death camps of Nazi Germany and at the time it was normal to encounter "No Jews" signs posted in places such as hotels and country clubs in the United States.

Diversity is in Mrs Meyerson winning the Miss America competition. It is in her campaigning against discrimination. It is in reporting this accurately in Wikipedia and it is in recognising her as a politician in Wikidata as well. When we promote diversity, it is making sure that stories like this are well represented.


Yesterday I was at the mosque for prayers. After the prayers everyone was informed that the police had been around. They urged people to immediately call when people are behaving in a suspect manner, when suspect packages are seen.

To put this in perspective, 70% of the mosques in the Netherlands have had to deal with attacks against the people or the building in the last ten years. Another perspective is in the burning of a mosque in Sweden last week.

Yesterday I went to the hairdressers.. The barber told me that his uncle and aunt had been killed by ISIS. It happened since I was there last. Their children were with another aunt..

Yesterday some crazy people killed 12 people at the office of Charlie Hebdo. The papers, the news is full of it. It is awful.

All of this is what makes terror. The people who threaten to burn mosques are terrorists. The people of ISIS who indiscriminately kill people are terrorists. The people who burn mosques are terrorists. The people who killed the people at Charlie Hebdo are terrorists.

I am angry and upset. I will however not be terrorised.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

#Wikidata is more like a #ball and not so much like a #pie

The value of the data in Wikidata is in its connections. From the start there are the inter language links to Wikipedia and as more statements are added, they are adding value in their own way.

Many statements are repetitive; many people are born or die on the same day. Many people go to the same school or take part in the same event. Items like these can be seen as a cluster, a ball. All of them together are an even bigger ball.

One early choice in Wikidata was to link items to external sources. This has many potentials for the future. We did experiment with comparing data. We may represent external data and not store it in Wikidata.

Through these external links, Wikidata is very much in a galaxy of data. There are clusters here and there of similar data. The value of that data is very much in our ability to represent it. From a language point of view all this data is not diverse. It is therefore our challenge to bring more language people to Wikidata not only for them to add labels but to do this in a SMART way.

#Wikimedia - #diversity is not only about #gender

The image captures it well. Many of one group, few of another. Each group aims to achieve its priorities and consequently one group is better represented in the results. The other group can be women, it can be muslims, it can be native Americans.

When you do not like the result, you want to fix it. Arguably the battle of Uhud is more important than the battle of Gettysburg. Arguably there are not enough female editors of our projects. Arguably we do not inform properly about subjects centred in Africa or Asia; we certainly do not have enough people caring about these subjects.

When an imbalance is to be addressed, it is important to understand why it exists, what the consequences are and what keeps the imbalance in place. Females leave because of the way they are treated. The solution is simple; do not tolerate abusive sexist behaviour. Never mind freedom of expression; if someone wants to be a male chauvinist  pig, he can behave or go elsewhere. Never mind who you are, be good or be gone.

You can not pay your way out of this. You have to address the evil that is in the way groups act.

The decision of what to fund has been given to volunteers. They have found that our community is big and, the requests for funding are extremely diverse. To bring more focus to their activity, they decided to only fund projects that addresses the gender gap in editors for a set period of time. Consequently the funding of everything else stops. The least that can be said is that for all the other projects there is no continuity. There is not even continuity for the gender issue as this special period will end.

Arguably this is a bad idea. Arguably having all funding decisions in one central place is not scalable.

Friday, January 02, 2015

UltimateGerardM - a #blog 10 years and counting

Blogging becomes a habit, a useful habit. It allows for the regular expression of opinion without being overly present on a mailing list. It allows for the promotion of best practices and the projects they apply to. It has enabled me to form an opinion and express it on a wide variety of subjects.

To my surprise I was told that my blog is running for 10 years. Time is creeping up on me, my beard is quite grey nowadays.. Anyway it is a time to celebrate and, what better way to celebrate a blog than to blog even more.

I will politely ask some people to make a choice from among three options:
  • answer 10 of my questions for publication on my blog
  • write a blogpost for publication on my blog
  • politely decline
When they choose for a blogpost, they may ask someone else to write a blogpost as well. This option is open for the people I invite to blog. The idea is to represent a broad spectrum of Wikimedians past and present. In this way I hope to find comments on subjects that mattered in the past and the present.

It may be useful, it will be informative but for me it will certainly be fun.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

#2015 - A new year, more #deaths

Death, like taxes, cannot be avoided. Currently #Wikidata knows about 12211 deaths for 2014. At least two people are already known to have died in 2015. As you can see in the screen shot, The ToolScript needed one more category for it to function for 2015.

I  documented many of the deaths of 2014. Currently there are 565 known deaths left to do. It leaves me with an issue. Will I continue documenting the deaths of 2014, or will I move on to the new year..
  • One big group of people in there are Ukrainians who were killed in the war that is raging there. You will not find the Russians, the fact that they are mortal there is apparently a state secret. 
  • You will not find many people from the Netherlands, they do not categorize those who died and consequently both them and us miss many people who died.. There must be an applicable policy for that <BIG GRIN>
  • You will find many people notable in languages or scripts that I do not easily read. Registering these people is important because that is essential for the diversity that is so important to Wikidata
I expect that I will move over to 2015 if only because it results in Wikidata knowing about the death of notable people days even weeks before the BBC reports their death.

#ISO - the shame that is in #standards behind a #paywall

The International Organisation for Standardisation exists for one reason and one reason alone. It is to define and promote standards. On the one hand it does a wonderful job and on the other hand it has been set up to fail miserably.

Defining a standard is hard work and a political process. Once it has been defined, it is ratified, it has to be adopted. The politicians, that make the process extra hard have for reasons that are ... political, decided that ISO has to pay for itself and consequently it was told to raise funds by charging people for learning about standards.

The consequence is that people make do with other standards or substandard descriptions of the standard like this one for the ISO 8601. Substandard because it is not the standard.

Wikidata includes information about events, it knows about a start date and an end date. This is what the ISO 8601 is about: date, time, calculation of periods and obviously the presentation of all that. Obviously, it is easy enough to buy one copy of the text of the standard.  But at the same time, there are many people, projects that are not as fortunate. They are anxious about implementing what is already defined in a standard, an ISO standard.

It is wrong headed politicians that ruin what is important. The politics of standards should be about the macro effects; the adoption of standards. It should not be about micro managing a system and breaking the system in the process.