Sunday, October 23, 2016

Kigeli V, Mwami of Rwanda

Kigeli was the last ruling Mwami of Rwanda. He died October 16.

When a last ruler dies, it follows that there are previous rulers and, there is a lot that is of interest in the history of the mwamis. His father for instance was deposed because he refused to become catholic.

I have added the rule of several mwamis to Wikidata because such basic information is often lacking. Wikipedia articles are often stubs at best and sources are often absent.

Typically a monarch is part of a dynasty. With a new dynasty it represents often a new family but certainly a change that makes for it to be recognised as such. The article on the kingdom of Rwanda describes the role of the mothers of a king. They are yet unknown to us and consequently a lot of relevant information is missing.

When you see all those red links, it is obvious that significant red links exist in any language. When they are linked to Wikidata, information like the follow up as ruler and who is related to who becomes a task that can be done once and be done well. It is one way to emancipate information that has been of little concern to Wikipedias.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

#Wikidata - statements are doing fine

In September there are more Wikidata items with 10 or more statements than items with no statements. Wikidata is growing up.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


I read an article, I found what was written astounding and signalled that I had to read it again to really understand what is said and what it implies. The article was published in a quality newspaper; the Independent. The reply that I got was: "Indeed. And it's Fisk, so you can't just pretend it is an obscure journalist talking about something that may have happened..."

As I did not know Robert Fisk, I looked him up. I checked his Wikipedia article and found that he has indeed a reputation that is really good. He received many more rewards than was known at Wikidata so I added several and it is fun to establish the quality of its sources. For the Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize the Lannan website says it all. It is linked on the item for the award and that should suffice. For the Amnesty International UK Media Award it is not so obvious. It is conferred by te UK branch of Amnesty International and it has no dedicated page for the award. I added the award, the chapter and had a look at the pages for the award ceremony for each year. These Wikipedia articles refer to webpages that no longer exist.

For the Lannan Cultural Freedom Prize I added the other recipients because it gives some insight in the relevance of the award. I did not do this for the Martha Gellhorn prize for journalism.

The point of this all is that reputation amounts to trust about the message that is written. Read the article, it is likely that you are not familiar with the Wahhabi belief, a subset of Sunni Islam that is practiced in Saudi Arabia. The article is about 200 Sunni scholars that denounce the Wahhabi belief. Several major scholars are involved. Have a read and have a think, the article is by a major journalist published in a major news paper about something that is not without consequences.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

#Wikimedia - the need for #sceptism

It is all over the news; another psychology study debunked. With two thirds of the repeated studies being debunked, there is a lot in the literature of psychology no longer valid. The source for the article I read is Mr Eric-Jan Wagenmakers professor at the university of Amsterdam.

The NWO, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, is funding 3 million Euro to repeat key research. The problem is that science is in love with what is new and quick results. Three million is at best a start.

When science cannot be relied on, collaboration with scientists and universities easily becomes controversial. The programs taught are inherently point of view and often a conflict of interest is easily established. Consider; when doctors prescribe substances that are FDA approved, it seems obvious that these substances have a positive effect on patients. Then consider that we have a Wikipedian in Residence at Cochrane, they make a reputation from debunking much of the use of such substances. We provide end user information and it seems obvious that just repeating the list of FDA approved substances without further information is not at all in our users best interest. It is even likely that we are liable for misinformation under several legislatures.

There is a need to be sceptical about sources. It is important that we not only improve the technology behind our sources, we also need an ability to mark information as debunked and have that information filter through our projects and in the information we provide. Remember, debunked is not a POV it comes with sources of its own.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

#Diversity - A Woman's hall of Fame

Wikipedia has a category of some 40 Women's hall of Fame. They are women from the past and the present that are seen as exemplary. For all the women who have an English article there is now a statement indicating that they are seen as such.

For many women who are on these lists there is no article. Obviously when the objective is to have quality articles on notable women, it is good when there are lists with articles that could be written.

There are such lists and the best thing is they is some form of automated maintenance. The Women in Red project has such lists. Many of their lists find their basis in Wikidata and it is therefore possible to add people to their lists by adding key data.

All the women who have articles are now known as such, The next thing is to add the missing articles, the red links. So far I have added items for them one by one and stated what they are known for. Obviously this is a stub. More information is needed to state what they are known for, where they lived, why they are notable. It is not only how you enrich the data it is also how you increase diversity.

#Wikidata - the conflict of interest in medical information

According to the clinical evidence handbook only 12% of the 2500 most prebscribed substances and treatments by doctors are not proven effective. There is a massive conflict of interest when unsubstantiated facts are allowed in Wikidata. Arguments like "it is NPOV" are used to defend the practice or "it is harmful for patients" when they can find out that a substance is no better than a placebo but does have negative side effects.

When an external source knows about a substance, it is fine to link to that source. This is not the same as importing the data wholesale particularly when the data is so obviously categorically problematic.

The Wikimedia Foundation has a responsibility and it is not in indicating what substances are prescribed. When we are to include information it is not on the basis that it has been approved for use but on the basis of that it is actually proven to be beneficial. An error rate of 12% on such vital information is not acceptable.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

#Wikidata - La GalerĂ­a de las Mujeres de Costa Rica

#Marketing is something the #Wikimedia Foundation does not do. It does not mean that concepts like KPI are foreign to the WMF. Take this list from the English article "La GalerĂ­a de las Mujeres de Costa Rica" the women listed are "women who have broken gender stereotypes and advanced human rights principals".

A lot of effort goes into fighting for a diverse Wikipedia where both women are given proper attention. If I were a marketing man, I would say that lists like this provide pointers to people who want to help. I would be happy with a list that shows all the current people with an article and I would be ecstatic when I had a list that would show all the missing articles that would auto update.

The funny thing is that technically it is not that hard to produce. It is not even that hard to include the technology into MediaWiki but it takes a marketing man to drive the point home that you have to engage people and that it shows the quality of a Wikipedia project when we know where we are lacking and where we should concentrate.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

#Wikidata - Colorado Women's Hall of Fame

There is a continuous effort underway in #Wikipedia to celebrate notable women. When women are seen as a role model, it is obvious that they deserve attention.

The Colorado Women's Hall of Fame is an organisation that celebrates women and every year 10 more women are included. The article on the organisation includes a list and it includes many red links. So more can be done, not only in Wikipedia but also in Wikidata.

As Wikidata is maturing, SPARQL is now of sufficient quality that many of the tools developed by Magnus are transitioning to SPARQL. This takes time and at the same time some tools are discontinued or do not fully function any more. Linked Items is one such tool. It creates a list of items that are found in a Wikipedia text. It is ideal when a text based file full of wiki links exist. It is just a matter of copying in the links and it will generate a list with Wikidata items for you. It is then needed to restrict the items that are used and it was possible to use WDQ the engine that could when SPARQL for Wikidata was a distant dream. Sadly it does not work anymore.

A solution is taking the list of items and copying to Petscan, the tool Magnus favours. It uses SPARQL and it is something of a Swiss army knife for data. When you are used to earlier tools like Autolist, many of the assumptions are wrong and it takes time to discover how the tool works. It does and that is why there are a large number of women who are known to be on the Colorado women's hall of fame.