Friday, March 30, 2007

Protecting people from poisonous personalities

The BBC website has an article about the culture of abuse on line that allows people to be noxious, abusive, threatening to people and in this instance to women. The thing that sparked this off are death threats to a prominent blogger, Ms Kathy Sierra. I read a follow up article on oReillynet called "Open season on women".

We have been extremely lucky and fortunate on OmegaWiki so far with abuse and vandalism. We have also been extremely lucky with our community. I do not exaggerate when I say that we have some great females being extremely relevant to what we do. If both articles need an official reaction, it would be that we will not tolerate such things on OmegaWiki and, that I am still appalled by the way the Wikichix were driven away from the Wikimedia Foundation for all the "right" reasons.

At this stage in the life cycle of OmegaWiki, I can say that people who are deemed to be poisonous in what they do will find that there is little toleration for them. When we get to the stage where it becomes an issue if we should tolerate poisonous people, I can tell you know that I am prepared to fight tooth and nail to get such people out.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

More new functionality & some stats

Lies, damned lies and statistics.. I always thought that OmegaWiki had more English words than German words. This turns out not to be the case, then I thought it may be because we make something English (United Kingdom) or English (United States) when the word is not shared between the two.. There are only 326 UK words; that does not fill the 441 gap.

These and more pondering are possible because of our new statistics functionality we have courtesy of Zdenek Broz. It shows you the actual numbers of Expressions in OmegaWiki.

Some more factoids, we now support 130 languages, 28 of these have less than 10 words.. When you compare us to Wiktionary, we would be the fourth in size when an article is considered the equivalent of an Expression or we would we the twenty-fifth in size when a DefinedMeaning is considered in this way. When you consider that all of our growth so far has been autonomously, I think we are doing well.

In the mean time, Alexa considers us the 480,601 website without statistics for the week.. I do not know what goes on there. I do like their T-shirts though.

To quote the Alexa T-shirts: "Will dance for better Alexa rank " :)


Thursday, March 22, 2007

New functionality

OmegaWiki has new functionality, there are two bits of functionality. One bit is not obvious but really helpful; a function to (re)build the indexes of the database. What it does is ensure that the indexes are build in the right order. This improves performance considerably.

The other bit, is much more spectacular. It sorts the tables in the HTML based on the content of the first column. The order depends very much on the language selected in the user preferences. This leads me to my question; is it sorted well when your language is Persian, Arab or Hebrew. These are right to left languages and I have no clue if the sorting is done well.


Monday, March 19, 2007

How do the four freedoms apply to one database?

The FSF defines four freedoms when it comes to software. What kind of freedoms applies to a database like OmegaWiki.

The OmegaWiki software is licensed, like MediaWiki what it is an integral part of, with a GPL license. This means that you can use the software as is. As OmegaWiki uses specific data structures that can be licensed separately for completeness sake, the database design is also available under a GPL license.

The data that is contained in OmegaWiki is licensed under a combined GFDL/CC-by license. Many people insist that these licenses are not compatible. At issue is that the data are just facts, it is only possible to copyright facts as a collection. We want people to make use of our collection. For us success is: "when people find a use for our data we did not think off".

We invite people to collaborate on our data, when they enter some Babel templates on their user page, we give them edit rights to the data. We invite organisations to collaborate on our data because there is so much data that organisations can share, there is so much labour invested in the type of data OmegaWiki can be a home for.

So the data and the software is Free. How about OmegaWiki itself ..

As there is only one, the room to do whatever is limited. The data has to be useful to everyone and it has to fit in with the notion of the DefinedMeaning. When domain specific data is added, it needs to be domain specific and, there has to be agreement that this data provides a suitable extension for people involved in this domain.

When people find that this is not enough, they can have their own database. This does not mean that they cannot cooperate. Much of what they need in terms of extra functionality will be shared. It means that even when the OmegaWiki database is forked, there is still plenty of scope to improve all the things we do agree on and collaborate on those.

There is plenty of Freedom. All the Freedoms we provide. I think however we achieve the most success when we find that there is more that binds us than that drives us apart. It means that we have to work hard in understanding what our common needs are.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Managing data with some SQL

The great thing about OmegaWiki is that the data is in a database. You might say that this is not that special, every wiki uses a database. Today, we have as a first time done some curation on the data; everywhere where a word in en-US was written exactly the same as in English, we have deleted the English. One example is the word "competition", in the history you will find the deletions.

I am really grateful that Leftmost has started to use SQL to fix things for us. It saves us what is most valuable; the time of our editors.

There are other things that we can do, I have asked to have all Bulgarian words that are capitalised changed to lower case where the Russian words are lower case. This is to fix something that is done consistently this way in the GEMET database. With these improvements, the GEMET data becomes usable for other purposes; things like data mining .. :)


Sunday, March 04, 2007

About reputation and education

Wikipedia has a new scandal. There are several issues here and, several interested parties. The scandal is about someone who is known by a nickname and who claimed that he had academic qualifications. He claimed to be a doctor of theology.

One of the interested parties who obviously relished this occasion was Dr Sanger of Citizendium fame. For Dr Sanger it is one of those occasions where he can sing the praises of his project. He did, I did not read anything new there. In the mean time, his project was announced in Nature and now, so many months later, there is still nothing to be seen. That does wonders for the credibility of that project ...

Given that scientific credentials will be very relevant on OmegaWiki, I have given it some thought. When people want to claim professional credentials, they would have to provide us at least with their real name and their e-mail address. These would be the requirements on the level of OmegaWiki.

For the Wikis for professionals, different rules might apply. When medical credentials are claimed, wrong information can kill. It is for such reasons that much more identifiable information is likely to be required. This does not mean that credentials are as important as Dr Sanger says. Relevant is the quality of the information provided. Relevant is the role a person plays in the community. This means that a person can become relevant in OmegaWiki by building a reputation. For this you do not need scientific credentials. Science has, like every part of society, its fair share of miserable people and I am sure Citizendium will learn that as well.

If this incident is to be a lesson, the lesson is that it does not pay to assume credentials and have a virtual reality meet real life. It is therefore sad that Essjay is now "retired". If this means that the person who did a lot of good work will do no more, than it is a sad outcome. If this is the only time that the issue of assumed credentials raises its ugly head, it has a silver lining. If this incident is sufficiently public that it will stop this phenomena, then I will be glad.