[Wikimedia-l] new report on Wikipedia sources

Ocaasi Ocaasi wikiocaasi at yahoo.com
Fri Aug 10 12:55:13 UTC 2012


Thanks for a fascinating read.  You managed to capture the crazy, chaotic, collaborative world we sometimes inhabit, especially during events like the Egyptian Revolution.  In all, it was a truly fascinating and consuming event to be a part of, and it got me briefly hooked on the rush of working articles on 'current events', an area I've many editors avoid due to the flood of attention they receive and the challenge of finding seasoned secondary sources.  Working on that article with EgyptianLiberal and Lihaas and Abrahzame and SilverSeren and others truly felt like we were relaying messages to the rest of the world as events unfolded.  That might be slightly grandiose but I think it's not that far off given how often the Wikipedia article was used as a go-to source for information about what was happening.

I'm very much interested by your page 50 chart on using social media as primary and secondary sources, respectively.  The notion that--a re-tweet by a journalist, a photo of a political cartoon in a rally, or amateur video footage on NYTimes website--will probably rub many editors the wrong way.  What is lacking in the mere republishing of that type of primary content is an indication that it has been vetted, fact-checked, or otherwise investigated through the typical channels which work towards ensuring reliable media reports.  If a journalist retweets a message from the ground, did he confirm that the original poster was where and who he said he was (if we know either of those details).  Perhaps the retweeter is just acting in that sense as only an amplifier rather than a journalist.  The picture of a political cartoon in a rally could be considered a secondary source, but for what exactly?  That the cartoon was present in at least one protest?
  A true secondary source would be able to make a broader claim that, for example, a particular photo was an 'iconic' image of the protests.  Merely capturing one instance does not provide the benefits that we expect from secondary sources, namely fact-checking, and perspective.  I think the same concerns would apply to an NYTimes republishing of an amateur video.  Mainstream news media wants to social these days, yet I do not think they have yet solved the puzzle of what their role should be with respect to ireports, tweets, on-the-ground cellphone footage, etc.

Last, I just want to acknowledge the particular vulnerability one feels from having an ethnographer evaluate their heat-of-the-moment comments.  You were indeed fair, but even with Wikipedia's wide-open transparency, it's a little uncomfortable to be the *subject* of the reports rather than the one who summarizes them ;)

Jake Orlowitz
Wikipedia editor: Ocaasi
wikiocaasi at yahoo.com

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