Wikipedia has new article feedback tool

In an interesting move to open up Wikipedia even more and to draw in new contibuters and ways to contribute to the greatest encyclopedia project ever, Wikipedia is now experimenting with a new version of Article Feedback Tool. The goal according to Wikimedia’s blog is:

…to engage readers to help improve Wikipedia — and to become editors over time. We’re very excited about this new development, and look forward to getting more people to contribute to Wikipedia as a result.

How do they do this? Check it out:

We are approaching this development in several phases.  The first phase, which went live today, is a test deployment of three new versions of the tool on approximately 10,000 randomly selected articles on the English Wikipedia and on a small number of manually selected articles. For examples, see Android, Wikipedia, and Global Warming.

Here is one of the three versions that are being tested:

This new version of the tool asks the reader whether they found what they were looking for, and if not, prompts them to explain what is missing.  The intent of this version is to provide editors with some idea of feedback on what readers are actually hoping to see when they read a Wikipedia article.  This information may then be used by the editing community when deciding how to improve the page.  The other two versions also ask for reader comments, but with different questions: the second version lets you make a suggestion, give praise, report a problem or ask a question; the third version lets you review the article. These new forms were developed by OmniTI, a web development firm, and were based on designs created by the Wikimedia Foundation in collaboration with the Wikipedia community. To learn more, visit the AFTv5 project page.

Fools and their money are easily parted

Christmas is really the time for bullshit gifts. This is not really criticism, I am all for buying crap – even though I would prefer not to be such a consumer. But there are times when I feel like shouting “Enough!!!”

This is how I felt when I came across this little spout used to pour wine. This is a good example of your usual crap – not unusual. But what is really unusual are the bullshit claims that the manufacturer makes.

Its a bottle pourer with a uniquely integrated magnetic field which, according to the manufacturer, ages the wine as you pour and then “opens” and “enhances” the wine’s flavours.

What a crock! If you really want an overpriced spout for you bottles – fine. But there is no way in science that pouring your wine through a magnetic field does anything at all to the taste. Even using industrial strength super-magnets will not change, improve, age, enhance or do anything else with your wine.

Then again the concept of the healing powers of magnetism are age old. But remember that bullshit, even old bullshit, is still bullshit.

P. T. Barnum is supposed to have said “There’s a sucker born every minute” and around Christmas they seem to be about in greater numbers than normal.


Technology will be abused

Recently the developer of weapons-grade pepper spray, Kamran Loghman, gave an interview where he criticized the UC Davis police using “his” product on peaceful protesters. The interview describes him as shocked and bewildered at this obvious overuse of force.

So I can understand his shock at the overuse of force but I have a hard time seeing that he could not have seen his weapon being abused in this way. It is not hard to see that developers of technology prefer to see their implementation in well meaning situations and used by balanced and fair individuals. But the reality that every technology developer must have is that all technology can, and will, be abused.

By attempting to adopt social control on technologies the developer is being naive. Logham is a well intentioned inventor and has even developed policies for the use of pepper spray by police. But as everyone should know by now – the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

But do we learn? Hardly!

The BBC has an interesting article about how a laser gun is going to be tested by the police as a future weapon against rioters. The laser gun temporarily blinds it’s victims and has great advantages over tear gas and pepper spray as the user does not have to be close to the rioters, it has an effective range of 500m.

The enthusiastic managing director Paul Kerr is quoted as saying “If you can’t look at something you can’t attack it”. The technician inside us sees everything as a fascinating technical solution that needs to be solved, the businessman within looks for opportunities for profit. Both manage to compartmentalize away any social responsibility in order to develop and sell weapons intended to be used against unarmed citizens. How nice.

So how long will it take before this is used in innovative new ways against those who do not deserve it?