- Wikipedia: Avondale Mine Disaster
One hundred and ten workers died in this Pennsylvania mine fire in 1869. The mine owner wouldn't allow but one tunnel to be constructed, so when the fire started, anybody below that point in the mine was trapped and suffocated. The result was that the Pennsylvania General Assembly created the nation's first safety standards for coal mining.
- Benjamin J. Balter: Analysis of Federal Executive .Govs
This grad student had the clever idea to take the OMB's list of all federal domain names and inventory them automatically. He cataloged whether the domain works, if it's running a web server, if they use a CDN, what CMS they use, and a few other bits of information. Interestingly, 29% of domains don't respond, only nine support IPv6, 13 are cloud-based, and Drupal is the most common CMS. Great stuff.
- Wikipedia: Tsar Bomba
The most powerful explosion ever created by man was "Tsar Bomba," the hydrogen bomb tested in the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, in the Arctic Sea, north of Russia. The Soviet Union created this 100 megaton bomb, but realized that it would be so powerful as to be completely impractical, and cut it down to 50 megatons. The 1961 explosion was ten times more powerful than all explosives used in the whole of WWII. The heat would have caused third-degree burns in somebody 60 miles away from ground zero, and caused damage 600 miles away.
During Marc Fisher’s live discussion last night, two comments submitted by members of the public stand out:
I voted for Deeds. The WaPo endorsement really helped. I started doing the research this weekend and was disappointed that the WaPo did not have a quick guide the issues. I searched for a half an hour and did not find a quick rundown of the candidates and the issues.
Also, Deeds had a wikipedia page about his past stances. That really helped. The other two did not have similar pages.
[T]he candidates should’ve had a Wikipedia page that listed out what they’ve done and the stances they’ve taken in the past. Deeds had such a page and as opposed to a campaign Website, a wiki page gives you a quick run down without the gloss.
What each person is referring to is “Political positions of Creigh Deeds,” a Wikipedia entry created in February by Venu Katta. Though it’s nothing fancy, and certainly not complete, this entry provides a simple, factual, unbiased (to my eye) cataloging of Sen. Deeds’ positions on important matters, thoroughly supported with citations.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Wikipedia is going to play a large role in year’s Virginia elections. The campaigns that a) understand that, b) harness that and c) do so in a fair, unbiased way will reap the benefits. The campaigns that ignore Wikipedia or attempt to manipulate its information in a way that is anything less than fully truthful will be penalized accordingly.
Thanks to B.K. for the tip.
As 2005 and 2006 were the years that blogs were at their peak influence in elections, I expect that Wikipedia will be at its peak influence in Virginia’s 2009 election.
Virginia’s constant elections put us in an unusual position of innovation. We’re always in the midst of an election cycle, so we’re in a position to capitalize on new trends. Blogs became a major part of the public awareness in 2005, but Virginia and New Jersey were the only states with elections that November, so we were the pathbreakers.
Wikipedia is in the process of expanding to a new level of detail and relevance. As more people learn to contribute to Wikipedia, and as more entries of international and national importance are basically completed, we’re seeing editors turn towards establishing and enhancing entries for topics of state and local note. You’re getting guys like me creating entries for the Monticello Wine Company, Lane High School, Yancey Mills, and Paul Goodloe McIntire. Wikipedia is local now.
The reason that candidates will be concerned about their Wikipedia entry is the prominence with which they show up in Google. Because Wikipedia’s Google PageRank is at the highest possible level (ten out of ten), most entries are like to be within the top three results. Simply establishing a Wikipedia entry, no matter how brief, is enough to make it a major source of information about that candidate for voters.
But the standard rules of political blogging don’t apply here. Unlike blogs, Wikipedia entries can’t be partisan, no original research is permitted, and every stated claim must be supported by a citation—text in violation of any of those standards isn’t liable to remain in place for long. But the facts are not always kind to candidates, and we’ve already seen one delegate get upset about his Wikipedia entry. The truth can be enormously damaging. Even the standard rules of partisan behavior don’t apply: I’ve put significantly more time into removing inaccuracy, unkind information from Virgil Goode’s Wikipedia entry than adding factual, negative information about him there. Like many Wikipedia editors, I believe that accuracy trumps all else. Since information has a well-known liberal bias, I figure that works out for me as a Democrat, anyhow.
Trickier still, candidates and their campaigns can’t edit Wikipedia entries about them. Not only is it against the rules of Wikipedia, but they’ll almost certainly get nailed for it, and that has enormous potential to be embarrassing. My advice for campaigns is to be cognizant of their Wikipedia entry, to have a campaign employee documenting inaccuracies on the entry’s talk page, but to never change a word. (Unless you’re a Republican candidate, in which case I encourage you to white-wash your entry so that I can humiliate you.)
As for the rest of you—Democrats and Republicans alike—I suggest that you create an account, learn the mechanics of editing entries, and take some time to learn about the community standards. Then go forth and enhance some Wikipedia entries about Virginia politics.
Dave Albo keeps editing his Wikipedia entry in total violation of Wikipedia’s standards, leading to ongoing edit wars between him (who keeps inserting advocacy language using text reproduced verbatim from his website) and neutral editors (who are trying to take out the self-promotion). The result is the worst Wikipedia entry for any member of the General Assembly. I’ve proposed wiping it out and starting again, this time adhering to a neutral point of view.
When somebody created a Wikipedia entry for me a couple of years ago, I adhered to Wikipedia standards and refrained from editing it. (I might be the world’s leading expert on me, but I can hardly be neutral in my viewpoint.) I asked that somebody propose that it be deleted, since I’m not a notable figure. Somebody did so, and Wikipedia editors agreed that I wasn’t up to snuff.
5pm Update: I totally overhauled the entry. The puffery is gone, it’s stripped down to the facts that I could verify (and a couple that I couldn’t), everything is footnoted, and it is now completely neutral. Much better.