Wikipedia Reports

June 24, 2008

So I’ve posted all the links from last night in my class del.icio.us feed. You find the links to all the parts of Wikiscanner and Wikipedia there, as well as the links to the Wikipedia tutorials you’ll need to dive into this project. For two weeks from now (Week 7, July 7), you need to do two things:

(1) Write a new page or substantially edit an existing page within Wikipedia. By substantial, I will be looking for more than 200 words of original material or the equivalent in terms of reorganization or “wikification.” You’re going to be graded not just on your contribution but how well you do within the bounds of Wikipedia—whether your contributions are welcomed, fit within the context of the Talk page within your particular entry, your adherance to NPOV and “notability” guidelines, and the like. You’ll need to spend some time learning the ethos of Wikipedia via its tutorial and reading through the tutorials and talk/discussion pages where you want to make your contribution. You won’t be penalized if your changes are undone, as long as you have a good case for your notability/NPOV, etc., and engage in the discussion if necessary.

(2) Create a report that examines the Wikiscanner report. You may do either a report on a particular organization and all of the edits it has done to the site OR you may report on a single entry and who everyone was who edited that particular article. Here are two examples of the best work from this spring’s class in terms of the Wikiscanner part.


MMOGs and Check-in

June 24, 2008

Online gaming (and related consoles like the Wii and Xbox 360) is quickly graduating from a teenage past-time to a massive industry, partly because the generation raised on Nintendo and Super Mario Brothers is aging and still playing games. Adult gaming is huge today. Movies today can gross more from the associated games than from the movies themselves. XBox’s Halo 3, which released in September and allows people to play joint missions from multiple locations connected online, had the biggest release in entertainment history—grossing some $170 million in its first 24 hours.

Massive multiplayer online games (MMOGs) are a huge business today—they’re even being used by the U.S. Army to recruit (as well as train).

Second Life is probably the best known of the various games and it has spawned a massive economic industry within it (although the benefits are questionable). Before class on Monday, please sign up for a Second Life account (basic membership is fine) and download the application before class so we can get started in class. If you’re using the school’s computers, just create your account. Read the Wikipedia page carefully so you understand the game (tech subjects like this are where you can trust Wikipedia better than just about any other source). BusinessWeek also had a good cover story on this phenomenon last year (make sure to note and listen to the podcast). If you love this and are interested in journalism, then go ahead and join the reporting staff of the Second Life Herald, the game’s virtual newspaper, or become one of the game’s embedded reporters. Also check out the Second Life Showcase to see some cool things going on in the game and listen to a podcast or two. Confused? Don’t be. Very few people understand how this world works and what its impact could be; that’s especially true of groups with an agenda.

Beyond Second Life, World of Warcraft is probably the second-best known, with a huge passionate following. How huge and how passionate, you ask skeptically? Try roughly 2 million North American players, 1.5 million European players, and 3.5 million Chinese. That’s some seven million PAYING users.

Companies are beginning to realize how big gaming is and how influential games can be in helping people make decisions, as well influencing decisions and policies. The North Carolina firm Persuasive Games is probably the leader in online game development. Go ahead and play a couple of them. Blog about your experiences. Are the games effective in getting their point/message across? What surprised you about this week’s readings?

As for next week, a reminder that you need to be all caught up on your blogging. It’s the sixth week of class, which means that you must have five (5) blog entries. One each on the following: (1) We the Media/Cluetrain/Naked Conversations; (2) The Long Tail; (3) The Search; (4) Here Comes Everybody; and (5) Gaming. If you are all caught up, I’d strongly encourage to work ahead on an extra blog post or two. You can’t do them all at the end of the semester. If you don’t have all five blog entries done by next week, you won’t be able to make them up.

Next week in class, we’ll be talking about the final project and the field report, which given how short this semester is turning out to be, we’ll wrap into one.


Wikipedia and Truthiness

June 18, 2008

With the Wikipedia class, we’re going to delve into the world of what Stephen Colbert calls “Truthiness.”

As your first journey into Truthiness and the challenges of the web, take a look at the documentary “Loose Change,” which was put together online to highlight the U.S. government’s role in the 9/11 attacks. On YouTube, hundreds of thousands of people have been able to view “Loose Change”—and, if you take the time to watch it, it makes a pretty convincing case that we don’t know the full truth about the 9/11 attacks. All told, across its various postings and versions, more than ten million people have watched the video. The challenge, of course, is that at best the documentary aspires to “truthiness,” that is it’s hard for a lay viewer to judge its actual level of factual interaction. Places like Popular Mechanics have tried to debunk the theories. One student last semested pointed out to me in class a parody of “Loose Change” called “Unfastened Coins.”

It’s easy to dismiss endeavors like “Loose Change” (or is it?), but the journey into Wikipedia is much more complicated. Here’s some background reading and viewing on Wikipedia, the world’s largest encyclopedia. Its founder, Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales, has turned into one of the web’s big celebs. He’s a big proponent of collaboration and “crowd-sourcing.” The project, though, despite becoming the default research tool for most college students and lazy journalists/researchers is very controversial for its “truthiness.” It’s very hard to know what exactly you can and can’t trust on Wikipedia. Newsman John Seigenthaler got very burned by a libelous write-up, and not surprisingly Encyclopedia Britannica thinks the project is the devil incarnate. On the other hand, a Nature study found that the two are about equal in accuracy. Of course, the beauty/challenge of Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it, as Colbert likes to demonstrate by raising the subject of “Wikiality” on subjects like elephants.

If you want a few other examples of wikis and how they’re used, check out the DisInfopedia and these useful resources on what wikis are and how to use them to collaborate. The articles also include some useful tips on how you might apply wikis to the work that you’re doing.

This is the week that I want you to be most wary of what we’re learning. Ask hard questions about wikis and Wikipedia—we’re going to talk in class about your mini-project, which will include contributing to a Wikipedia entry and preparing a research report on using a program that allows you to track who’s been editing a particular entry. Your blog entry should focus on the following two questions: Should we trust Wikipedia or an expert-led encyclopedia more? How could Wikipedia be better set-up to better provide accuracy? Should it be open to everyone or just verified “experts”?

In class, I’ll walk you through some Wikipedia pages, help you set up accounts, and explain WikiScanner.

For your reading for the week, tackle the following in “Here Comes Everybody”: Pages 1 – 54, 109 – 304. It’s a good book and a fast read so I hope you enjoy it.

REMINDER: Make sure next week to check my Twitter feed for a note that I’ll make it back to Washington in time for class.


Google: Veni, Vidi, Vici

June 15, 2008

Wait? Didn’t we just meet? Is it time for class again already? We’re going to spend all of tomorrow’s class looking at Google, which has become the most powerful media company the world has ever seen.  It’s so huge that the presidential candidates are beating a path to its door (as are desperate authors like myself). Your assignment for the week’s blog: Should we be afraid of Google? Don’t worry: I won’t worry too much about the due date for this blog since it’s a short time between class and I’m a little late getting this up.

As you read Battelle, think about what he means search as a database of intentions. What impact does this have for better and worse? In class, we’ll watch a video about Googlezon, predicting one possible future.

Make sure to also check out this Economist article, this piece by Google about why it remembers searches, some Google tips and tricks, this explanation of page rank, and this funny story of Ted Leonsis and how he seized his own page ranking.

Simply Google puts all of the various parts of Google on a single page—it’s an impressive representation—and Scoble, whom we discussed last night and the author of NC, says there’s DOG afoot! Could Google end up owning the internet? Could sites like del.icio.us do search better? Yahoo!, the perennial also-ran in search, has been expanding too, although as you probably saw Microsoft may end up owning Google. Will Google kill Wikipedia? Will it own the wireless arena? Google today encompasses some huge brands, like Blogger we mentioned last night and YouTube, so here’s some YouTube history for you. Here’s a Google cheat sheet.

GoogleEarth and GoogleMaps are incredible products, putting resources that in our lifetimes once belonged only to the wealthiest and most advanced governments in the hands of anyone. Here’s some fun stuff about them. Have you looked for your house in GoogleMap? I know if you go to my address, you can see my car sitting in the driveway.

Want some alternatives to Google? Try this resource for 100 other search engines or use Googlonymous. Why do alternatives matter? Because it turns out that what you find depends very much on where you search!

Lastly, if you just can’t get enough on Google, here’s a bunch more: Google Health, Google Search, Google Privacy, and just some fun.

Also, try to send me an email this week about how class is going for you. I’ve thrown a lot at you in the last two weeks—do you feel like you understand the material? Are we covering too much in class? Too little? Am I talking too much? What do you need from me to be able to do better and learn more? I want to make sure that you all are equipped at the end of the class to navigate the digital world and so if we need to spend another week on blogging, online communication and PR tips, etc., we certainly can do that. Meanwhile: Several of you have asked about whether you’re on the right track blogging-wise. I’ll send you each an email this week about your blog.


Blogging, Social Media, and More Head-Spinning

June 10, 2008

First some links from last night: Metadata and tags, folks and tax, RSS (more) and Technorati. Here’s a good Seth Godin blog post on Bobcasting too. You should load Seth’s blog into your RSS reader if you haven’t already. He writes one of the best marketing blogs out there.

I hope your heads have stopped spinning from all the different forms of blogging last night—I know I threw a ton at you. We’ve just got so much to cover and so little time! I’ve put all of the links from last night (and will put all the links from future nights) at del.icio.us/mppr85060class. Check out the links to your heart’s content. I hope you’ll plan on spending an hour or two after each class going over what we covered in class with more time and leisure.

Also, for Friday’s class I want you to watch some vlogs (video blogs) and listen to some podcasts. Here are the links to TWiT, Rocketboom, Webb Alert, and Ask a Ninja. Feel free to explore and see some other vlogs and podcasts.

If you have iTunes on your computer, the best place to find podcasts is in the iTunes store. You can download individual podcasts or subscribe. You can get a ton of your favorite NPR shows (This American Life, Day by Day, Diane Rehm, etc.), listen to speeches, and even download the Sunday talk shows, among the many professional podcasts. More fun, though, are the random podcasts.

For your blog entry this week, talk some about your reaction to Chris Anderson’s idea of The Long Tail and whether you’ve found yourself exploring new areas in the internet’s long tail. Also, write a paragraph about exploring podcasts and what you chose to listen to.

We’ll be talking more over the semester about what makes a good blog and some of the various formats blogs have taken. Here are the blogging tips to get you started, as well as some other tips here, here, and here.

The topic for Friday’s class is social networking and social media. We’ll spend most of this week looking at a a few of the major social networking and social media sites: MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, and del.icio.us.

For starters, dig through my files on Facebook, and make sure to read the following articles: Jeff Jarvis, Fast Company, Wharton, Mashable, CNN, and check out this tips and tools for Facebook. Here’s some info on how companies are using social networking and who are the demographics. Compare who uses MySpace and Facebook? What’s different? Why? What does friendship mean online? Watch Scoble’s take on Kyte TV (you may have to install Flash) and then ask yourself: Is Robert Scoble media? What does the future for media look more like? Scoble or the Wall Street Journal?

We’ll play with Digg, Flickr and YouTube in class some, so if you’ve never used those sites, make sure to spend some time on them. Here’s some background on Digg. They are some of the leading examples of social media. Del.icio.us is a form of social media too, and here are some other examples. You want some concrete examples about how this works? Take a look at this report on social media and public radio. And take a look at how to do effective online advocacy in social networks.

One question to ponder for this week: Do we need a Bill of Rights for the social web? Boy, that would be a good “extra” blog entry, wouldn’t it?