[Foundation-l] Wikinews - not so much a state of the wiki

Brian McNeil brian.mcneil at wikinewsie.org
Tue Dec 4 11:51:19 UTC 2007

Absent Erik's irregular "State of the Wiki" reports on Wikinews we have a
number of developments that are going to need input from the wider WMF
community, potentially including Mike Godwin's input or that of board
members on formulation of policies. I will apologise in advance in case I
waffle or ramble.


The first issue I'd like to bring up is embargoed stories, we've had two
within the space of about a week. The first was the technology pioneers one,
the latest is the newest leak of the manual for Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay


In both cases work was carried out in secret with static web pages updated,
invite-only IRC channels, and emails flying about. This isn't exactly what
we're meant to be doing, but if a source says they'll tell us something
provided we don't publish it before a specific time we have to either
respect their wishes or decline the offer. We lose credibility, stories, and
relevance if we decline these sort of chances.


My first thought on this was that a private wiki is required,
embargoed.wikinews.org or similar. Yet, the story up on Slashdot at the
moment, and accusations of a Cabal-esque secret mailing list would not be
mitigated by opening another private channel for communication and
cooperation. I cannot think of alternatives that would meet the needs of
these situations unfortunately.


Among the issues we need to deal are things like translation. Our Camp Delta
story is (when I last looked) up in 5 languages. The only mainstream media
also covering the story is the Washington Post, but more will follow as the
U.S. wakes up and the papers come out. We were first, but I believe we could
have had more language coverage and a more in-depth article had we had a
familiar (i.e. wiki) collaborative space. I am trying to chase up an Arabic
translator to get the story on ar.wikinews.org, and am in contact with
former Guantanamo chaplain James Yee who I hope to get to take a look at
their translation of the rules as well as answer some questions.


Moving on from that, and on to a related item; one that has probably been
asked by 1 in 5 of every new Wikinewsies that sticks around. "Why aren't we
listed on Google News?" The simple answer is we have no editorial control.
With an "anyone can edit" approach we fail some of the criteria Google
applies when approving or declining potential sources. We are forced to use
a poor man's workaround which is republishing stories on a blog which Google
have approved. So, for our Gitmo story the blog is listed
&rlz=1B3GGGL_enBE176BE229&hl=en&q=guantanamo+bay+camp+delta&ie=UTF-8) but as
soon as other sources come up it will slip into obscurity. Actually having
the genuine Wikinews listed would not have us in that situation.


I have proposed one solution, and Angela has countered with another.
Angela's suggestion is the Foundation set up blog.wikinews.org and Wikinews
use that, but my reaction is whilst that address would be given a more
prominent Google listing it would still have all the technical issues
associated with updates, particularly when dealing with stories such as the
Virginia Tech shootings or London Bombings.


My proposal is the Wikinews adopt flagged revisions and create a policy to
select those who may flag revisions. Thus, those with the ability to flag
would become the editorial control team and collectively responsible for
editorial control. The Foundation remains independent of editorial control
(another thorn with Google).


Any input on this would be much appreciated. I have every reason to believe
that other languages, for example Polish, would also be interested in
FlaggedRevs. They are becoming increasingly active and if you check their
version of the Camp Delta story they've really gone to town filling it out.
They've also established good media contacts and I strongly suspect their
story, and their translation of the detainee rules will appear in tomorrow's
Polish newspapers.



Brian McNeil

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